Kids Who Watch Healthy Cooking Shows Are Twice As Likely to Eat Healthy: Study

Kids Who Watch Healthy Cooking Shows Are Twice As Likely to Eat Healthy: Study

We all know that spending too much time in front of the TV, a tablet or other electronic device can affect a child’s health—and their risk for childhood obesity. Yet new research shows that kids who watch healthy kids’ cooking shows are actually more likely to be healthy eaters.

KIDS’ COOKING SHOWS ENCOURAGES KIDS TO EAT HEALTHY

Now that we can all breathe a sigh of relief and not feel so guilty about all forms of screen time, let’s take a deeper dive into the research.

The new study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that kids who watched a healthy cooking show which featured healthy foods and was geared for them, were 2.7 times more likely to choose healthy food than those who watched a different episode of the same show that featured unhealthy food.

For the study, which was conducted in the Netherlands, researchers asked 125 kids, between 10-and-12-years-old (with their parents’ permission) to watch 10 minutes of a public TV cooking show.

The kids were then offered a snack as a reward for participating—something the AAP—and most experts—say to avoid, but for the sake of research, I suppose it’s not relevant 🤫.

At the end of the study, researchers found that kids who watched the healthy cooking show were significantly more likely to choose one of the healthy snack options—an apple or cucumber slices—instead of the unhealthy options—chips or salted mini-pretzels.

According to the researchers, the findings seem to indicate that watching kids’ cooking shows and learning about healthy foods and their portion sizes in a visually appealing way affects the types of foods kids will crave and encourages them to act on those cravings.

Interestingly, the study was conducted at the children’s schools, which the authors say could have a positive influence on their “knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors,” and be a way to teach healthy eating habits.

The authors also note that exposure to healthier food options is influenced by children’s personality traits. So if your kid doesn’t like to try new foods to begin with, he’s probably not going to go for the healthy food choices after watching the show. 

Something that I found particularly interesting however, is that as kids get older, they feel responsible for their eating habits and can rely on information they learned when they were younger.

Therefore, even if your kids watch healthy cooking shows when they’re young but it doesn’t affect their food choices, when they’re older, it might.

WATCH KIDS’ COOKING SHOWS, THEN COOK TOGETHER

While simply watching kids’ cooking shows can encourage your kids to eat healthier, you can take it one step further and cook together with your kids.

I’ve noticed this with my own kids who love to watch Pretty Healthy, and other types of cooking shows and then are excited to cook with me.

Research shows eating home-cooked meals is healthier than eating out.

What’s more, kids who eat with their families 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods and have disordered eating, and are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.

Cooking together also empowers kids to make healthy choices, teaches them a life skill, builds their confidence, creates memories and builds family bonds.

If you’re not the greatest home chef however, and you’re looking for help, I recommend the Kids Cook Real Food video course for families. The course teaches kids over 30 basic kitchen skills, builds their self-esteem and confidence and gives you easy recipes to make at home. Register for the course here.

DO YOU WATCH KIDS’ COOKING SHOWS WITH YOUR LITTLE ONES? DO YOU THINK IT ENCOURAGES THEM TO EAT HEALTHY? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions You Can Totally Keep

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions You Can Totally Keep

I don’t know about you, but as we head into 2020, and a new decade, I’m really feeling the old adage, the days are long but the years are short. This year, my kids grew taller, met new milestones and learned something new. They matured, but still needed their mama. There were meltdowns and sibling fights, but also plenty of laughter and hugs. Above all else, I feel accomplished and proud and I hope you do too, whether it was potty training, sleep training or encouraging your child to try a new vegetable. So as you look towards to the new year with a renewed hope and optimism, a new perspective and a fresh start, chances are, you’re looking for realistic New Year’s resolutions that actually work for you and your family.

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, more than 55 percent of people make them about eating healthy, healthy habits and exercise, according to a 2016 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Yet between fad diets, strict food rules and unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves—especially as moms— it’s no wonder 80 percent of people don’t follow through.

That’s why it’s important to make realistic New Year’s resolutions that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound) and more likely to stick. Here are 10.

1. EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS

One of the best things you can do for you and your family’s health is to swap some of your processed foods for whole foods at meals and snacks.

Fast food and processed, packaged foods are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar which are all linked to childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions.

Even if your kid is stick thin now, eating this way conditions his taste buds for this type of food and creates unhealthy habits that could continue throughout his lifetime.

Instead, do your best to have a diet made up mostly of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats which will give kids the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.

2. COOK MORE 

Although it may not be one of the most popular tips, cooking more is actually one of the best realistic New Year’s resolutions.

You may not like to cook, think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth all the effort, but cooking more meals at home strengthens family bonds, gives kids real-life skills, helps with picky eating, and can save your kid’s life.

The good news is that cooking doesn’t have to take a lot of time, brainpower or effort. For help, check out my blog posts:

 

3. MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE

When it comes to realistic New Year’s resolutions, you might think there’s no way self-care will make it on the list.

The thing about self-care however, is that it doesn’t have to be a weekend getaway with friends or even an hour-long massage.

Instead, find ways to carve out five or ten minutes to take a bath, listen to a podcast, use a meditation app, or go for a brisk walk.

Related: 10 Tips for Self-Care All Moms Need

4. MOVE MORE

You already know all of the physical and mental benefits of exercise and although making it a priority may not seem like a realistic New Year’s resolution, it’s totally doable.

Sign up your kid for a new sport or dance class. Take a bike ride, go to the park, or take a walk after dinner around the neighborhood.

Raining or snowing? Have an indoor dance party or play Twister. Anything that encourages your kids to get up and moving, counts.

5. GO TO SLEEP 30 MINUTES EARLIER

Despite all of the benefits of a good night’s rest, most kids and adults don’t get enough shut-eye.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many kids don’t get enough sleep and some get less than their parents think they need.

Their 2018 poll showed much of the same: only 10 percent of adults prioritize their sleep over other aspects of daily living such as eating healthy and exercise, work and hobbies.

Lack of sleep can affect energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance at school and work.

Insufficient sleep can also lead to weight gain because the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack. Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, which makes it more likely that you’ll overeat.

Although turning in an hour or more earlier may not be a reality, chances are, 30 minutes is doable.

It may require that you create new habits such as serving dinner earlier or shifting schedules a bit.

Also, power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and find ways to wind down before bed such as reading, meditation or prayer.

6. MAKE A GROCERY SHOPPING LIST

Although meal planning is one of the best ways to eat healthy and save money, it may be too time consuming—at least for now.

Instead, one of your realistic New Year’s resolutions can be to make a grocery shopping list every week. 

As you start to make your list, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what you need to replenish so you don’t buy something you already have.

Also, think about the week ahead so you can plan accordingly. Perhaps you need to bring the team snack to soccer or maybe you need a fast meal on hand for a night when you know you’ll be getting home late—add it to the list.

Most of the foods on your shopping list should be those located in the perimeter of the store like fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry and dairy and eggs.

In the interior sections, you can find healthy foods like beans and legumes, canned salmon, sardines and tuna fish, whole grains like brown rice, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, but stay away from highly-processed foods and snacks.

7. ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS

In the spirit of 2020 optimism, focus on small, simple ways to encourage healthy habits instead of focusing too much on kids who are picky eaters, refuse to eat, or eat too much.

Need ideas? Read “50 Best Healthy Eating Habits for Kids.”

8. CUT DOWN ON THE DEVICES

Electronic devices are such a big part of our lives, but emerging research finds adverse health effects, especially when it comes to our kids.

According to a November 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics, device use in preschool-age children can change the structures of the brain, and is associated with lower expressive language, processing speed, and emergent literacy skills.

Another recent study found kids who are first exposed to smartphones, tablets, TV and video games before 18 months of age, as well as multiple devices in the bedroom, is associated with sleep disruption and emotional and behavioral difficulties in preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism, language delays and learning disorders.

When you consider that screen time also encourages sedentary behavior, can lead to weight gain, affects sleep, and can prevent play time, hands on exploration and face to face social interaction, there’s no doubt that curbing electronic use is a good idea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommendations for screen time for kids, but it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight. Set a timer so your kids understand the expectations and then start to cut back 10 minutes at a time, or cut down on the number of days.

9. TRY SOMETHING NEW THIS YEAR

The key to making realistic New Year’s resolutions is to make sure they’re novel and fun.

For example, instead of purging every last bit of junk food from your pantry on January 2, which will most likely lead to resistance, try something new.

Pick out a new vegetable to cook, test out a new recipe, try a new cooking method, use a new appliance, or serve dinner in a new way such as buffet instead of family-style.

10. PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING

One of the best things you can do for and your family’s health is to practice mindfulness at meals.

Mindfulness can help everyone slow down, really taste their food, and savor every bite. When you’re present and using all of your senses to eat, you’re less likely to overeat and become an emotional eater, and more likely to enjoy each other.

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, including her new one, “Hanger Management: Master Your Hunger and Improve Your Mood, Mind and Relationships.”

 

What are your realistic New Year’s resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

50 Best Healthy Eating Habits For Kids

50 Best Healthy Eating Habits For Kids

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my kids have had their fair share of indulgent meals and sweet treats, and most of their healthy eating habits went right out the window.

There were dinners with family and holiday parties at school.

At church, there was birthday cake for Jesus—and even a goody bag of sweets to take home.

There were Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and candy canes almost everywhere we went.

I tried my best to make sure my kids didn’t go overboard, but I also didn’t make a big deal about it because then food could become a power struggle.

Although there were definitely the sugar highs, meltdowns and at least one stomach ache, it was also an opportunity to teach them how what you eat can affect how you feel physically and emotionally.

Now that the holidays are almost behind us, and we look ahead to 2020, making healthy eating habits a priority for your family this year—and throughout their lives—is a great New Year’s resolution to make.

If you’re looking for easy, realistic ways to get started, here are 60. 

BEST HEALTHY EATING TIPS FOR KIDS

1. Make time for breakfast.

2. Get enough sleep because lack of sleep can cause overeating.

3. Serve new foods—up to 15 times!—to get your kids to accept them.

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

5. Avoid using food as a bribe or a reward.

6. Cook with your kids.

7. Go grocery shopping together and let your kids pick out a new vegetable to try.

8. Let your kids pick out new recipes they want to cook with you.

9. Pay attention to portion sizes—and teach them to your kids.

10. Let kids have dessert—even if they didn’t eat their vegetables.

 

MORE BEST HEALTHY EATING TIPS FOR KIDS…

11. Eat at the dinner table—not in the car or on the run.

12. Offer fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.

13. Serve whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.) instead of refined grains (white bread, white pasta, etc.)

14. Include protein at every meal and snack.

15. Serve more plant-based foods.

16. Include healthy fats in every meal.

17. Learn 10 ways to prevent childhood obesity.

18. Serve fish and seafood—it’s good for your kid’s brain.

19. Cut down on sugar foods, sweetened drinks, chocolate milk, juice and added sugars.

20. Read food labels and compare brands.

21. Eat more whole foods.

22. Avoid high-sodium foods.

23. Have a no-TV, no-phone, no-device rule at the dinner table.

24. Teach kids what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

25. Teach kids how to eat mindfully.

26. Don’t sneak vegetables but find new ways to incorporate them into meals, snacks and desserts.

27. Serve eggs for breakfast—everyday is A-OK!

28. Don’t swear off processed foods entirely but teach balance.

29. Encourage kids to drink plenty of water.

30. Plant a garden.

31. Bring your kids to the farmers’ market.

32. Encourage your kids to eat salad.

33. Teach your kids how to bake healthy.

34. Swap out sugary cereal for healthier versions.

35. Pack healthy school lunches instead of buying lunch.

36. Eat more meals at home.

37. Serve vegetables with breakfast.

38. Avoid labeling foods “healthy” and “unhealthy” and “good” or “bad,” which can make forbidden foods even more desirable.

39. Grow herbs indoors.

40. Teach kids how eating certain foods make you feel energized vs. sluggish or sick.

41. Set aside healthy snacks kids can grab themselves.

42. Serve birthday treats that aren’t cupcakes.

43. Offer high-fiber foods your kids will love.

44. Teach kids that they can enjoy everything in moderation.

45. Teach kids how to cope with tough emotions without turning to food.

46. Don’t order off the kids’ menu: order healthy appetizers instead or share a healthy meal.

47. Plant vegetables in a community garden.

48. Make vegetables healthy and delicious.

49. Be mindful of weekend eating.

50. Know how to deal when your kid refuses to eat.

10 Healthy Snacks for Kids At School

10 Healthy Snacks for Kids At School

As a mom of two little ones, I often feel like I spend just as much time planning healthy meals for them as I do snacks. One kid has a morning snack and the other has an afternoon snack. One will eat just about anything I pack, while the other often comes home with her snack untouched. Whether yours are in daycare, preschool or elementary school, packing snacks is an everyday chore and chances are, finding healthy snacks for kids is something that’s top of mind for you too.

Although we can all aspire to those creative, healthy snack ideas on Pinterest, most of us are too time-strapped to make that a reality. Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to Goldfish or other processed snacks.

There are healthy snacks for kids that will satisfy their hunger, help them stay focused at school, and give them plenty of energy until they get home. Even better— they only take minutes to pull together. Here are 10 ideas to try.

1. VEGETABLES

If you’ve tried to pack vegetables as a snack for school, chances are, they came right back home.

Like I said, I have the same issue with one of my daughters but I continue to offer them. Why? Because the The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says snacks are not only an opportunity to support your child’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Besides, most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day to begin with so offering snacks is a great way to take advantage of their hunger and get these foods into their diets.

Snacks also help kids learn what they like to eat—and what they don’t—and can encourage them to become adventurous eaters.

Some school-friendly veggie options include:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus (cooked)
  • Baby carrots
  • Belgian endive (add some feta cheese or a peanut butter)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Green beans (cooked)
  • Jicama
  • Parsnip “fries”
  • Purred pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Zucchini “sticks”

2. FRUITS

Fruit is usually kid-friendly and among some of the best healthy snacks for kids at school.

Fresh or frozen, you can pack washed, whole fruit, or pack cut-up fruit in individual glass containers.

Some of the best fruits to pack for school include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Mandarines
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon


3. POPCORN

Popcorn is a great snack option at school because it’s so easy to pack in a lunch box or snack bag.

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

You can make your own popcorn at home or buy it pre-portioned, but read labels carefully to avoid large amounts of sodium and trans fat as well as artificial ingredients. 

SkinnyPop is one of my favorite brands because it’s non-GMO, trans-fat free and low in sodium.

4. HUMMUS

When you’re looking for healthy snacks for kids, hummus is a great choice.

A 100-gram serving has 6 grams of fiber and nearly 8 grams of protein, plus the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

If your child has a sesame allergy, you can make your own (here’s a recipe).

Hummus pairs well with whole grain crackers, mini pitas, or vegetables like sliced peppers, celery and carrots.

5. GUACAMOLE

Avocado is one of the best foods you can feed your kids. With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, they’ll get a ton of nutrition without a lot of calories.

Avocado is also an excellent source of healthy fats and a good source of fiber. They also have lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids or plant pigments, found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Homemade guacamole is delicious and has a great texture but if you decide to buy it off the shelf, read labels because many store-bought options have artificial ingredients.

Pair guacamole with whole grain tortilla chips, cut-up veggies or serve it alone— either way, it’s sure to be a snack your kids will love.

6. UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE

Cups or squeezable pouches of unsweetened applesauce can make for an easy and healthy snack any time of day.

7. CHEESE

High in protein and a good source of calcium, cheese is one of the best healthy snacks for kids at school.

Cheese is easy enough alone, but if you’re looking to add more nutrition and variety, pair it with fruit.

Some yummy combinations to try include:

  • Tomatoes and mozzarella
  • Figs and brie
  • Watermelon and feta
  • Pear and blue cheese
  • Apple and cheddar

7. YOGURT

Yogurt is usually a kid-favorite and an easy school snack.

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

When you look for yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

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

8. TRAIL MIX

Nuts and seeds are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats which makes trail mix an easy and healthy snack for school.

Since many store-bought trail mixes are filled with salty nuts, loads of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and candy however, be choosy when looking at the different options.

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

9. HEALTHY SNACK BARS

Stocking your pantry with healthy snack bars can ensure you always have something on hand for school. 

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

Also, consider whether your kid is eating it with lunch or as a snack, because depending on the calories, it can easily turn into another meal.

KIND and Larabar are two of my favorites but you can also look for recipes and make your own.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY SNACK BAR FOR KIDS

10. EDAMAME

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are also high in calcium and make for a healthy school snack.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

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

10 Unique Gifts for Kids

10 Unique Gifts for Kids

When my husband and I sat down a few weeks ago to search for gift ideas for our kids, we made a point to buy presents that they’d actually use and hopefully keep them busy, but we also included some items that they didn’t ask for but we’re sure they’ll love anyway.

Whether you’re shopping for your own kids, nieces and nephews, or a Godchild, they probably already have their own gift wish lists. Although toys, books, gift cards and cash are easy options, if you’re looking for unique gifts for kids, and something that will really wow them, I’ve got you covered. These gifts are for girls and boys, and include options for all ages and price points.

 

 

 

2. FAT BRAIN TOYS TEETER POPPER

Winner of The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)’s Best Toys for Kids Awards 2014, the Fat Brain Toys Teeter Popper improves your kid’s  core strength and stability, balance and coordination and will keep him active for hours. $38.98.

1. KIDS COOK REAL FOOD COURSE

The Kids Cook Real Food video course for families is hands down one of the most unique gifts for kids. The 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. 

 3. NIKE ADVENTURE CLUB

 Let’s face it: kids grow quickly and if they’re active, they need sneakers all the time. The Nike Adventure Club is a subscription-based service that delivers a new pair of Nike or Converse sneakers to their door along with activities to inspire them to get moving. You can choose from 30-, 60- or 90-day options and used sneakers will be donated or recycled. Starting at $20/month.

4. KIDS’ YETI TRACKER SNOWSHOE PACKAGE 

Whether you have a snow day or are hitting the slopes, keeping your kids active during the winter is important. The Kids’ Yeti Tracker Snowshoe Package is the perfect present for the cold and includes snowshoes, aluminum poles and a durable snowshoe bag and is suitable for kids size 10 youth to kids’ size 4. $99.95.

 

 

 

5. LITTLE TREASURES’ FRUIT & VEGETABLES PLAY KITCHEN FOOD

 

Whether you have picky eaters or little foodies, this Little Treasures Fruit and Vegetables Play Kitchen Food is the perfect way to teach little ones about healthy eating. With 16 fruit and vegetable plastic play foods that can be “sliced” and then pressed back together, 2 safe, play knives and cutting boards, and a carrying pouch, kids will be inspired to prepare and eat healthy meals. $14.99.

 

 

 

 

 

6. SLACKERS NINJALINE 36′ INTRO KIT

If you have kids who need to burn off energy or you just want your kids to get outside more, the Slackers NinjaLine 36′ Intro Kit is one of the best unique gifts for kids. For kids 6 and up, the kit has seven obstacles including rope knows, monkey bar holds and gymnastics rings. Hook it up between two healthy trees or polls, and it’s guaranteed to be hours of fun (and fitness) for kids. $89.97.

 

 

 

 

 

7. MASTERCHEF JUNIOR COOKING ESSENTIALS SET

 

There are so many benefits of cooking with your kids and sometimes all it takes to get them in the kitchen is some cool gear. This MasterChef Junior Cooking Essentials Set includes an apron, cutting board, mixing bowl, measuring cups, measuring spoon, spatula, spoon and tongs, as well as 3 unique recipe cards to try. $39.99.

 

8. JUMP2IT KIDS PORTABLE 2 PERSON MINI TRAMPOLINE

What kid doesn’t love to jump? With the Jump2It Kids Portable 2 Person Mini Trampoline, two kids can enjoy hours of indoor fun and activity—great for when it’s too cold to go outside. The trampoline features a durable, safe construction and a sturdy, foam coated and adjustable handlebar that grows with your kids. $96.66.

9. WOWMAZING GIANT BUBBLE WANDS KIT

With its 2-handed design, the WOWMAZING Giant Bubble Wands Kit creates long, giant bubbles that will keep your kid moving and engaged all afternoon. The set includes a giant bubble maker, a pouch of WOWmazing bubble concentrate, and a booklet of tips and tricks. $14.95.

10. BORN TOYS GARDENING SET

Want to get your kids excited about healthy eating? Plant a garden together. The Born Toys Gardening Set comes complete with gardening tools, an apron, hat, gloves, spray bottle and bag. $25.95.

11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

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

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

WHY IS MY CHILD ALWAYS SICK WITH A COLD?

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

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

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

MY CHILD IS CONSTANTLY SICK

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

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

They’re older and presumably have stronger immune systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 FOODS THAT FIGHT COLDS AND THE FLU

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

1. Chicken soup

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

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

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

2. Apples

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

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

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

3. Ginger

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

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

4. Eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Garlic

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

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

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

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

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

6. Kefir

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

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

7. Oranges

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

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

8. Berries

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

9. Whole grain bread

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

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

10. Water

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

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

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


11. Yogurt

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

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

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

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

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fruits and vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pack protein

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

Protein should make up 1/4 of your child’s lunch box but you’ll want to focus on lean, quality protein sources instead of processed foods like deli meats and cheeses or hot dogs.

Try chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs, fish: canned salmon, sardines or tuna fish are all great, low-mercury options

Choose whole grains instead of refined grains

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

Whole grains have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber, which are stripped from refined grains.

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

Include milk or dairy

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

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

Add healthy fats

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

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

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

Sandwich sushi

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

Deli roll-ups

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

Grilled cheese with vegetables

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

Rice bowl

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

Spring rolls

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

Soup

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

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

Quesadillas

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

Eggs

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

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

Veggie “fries”

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

Kabobs

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

Bean or lentil burgers

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

Lettuce wraps

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

Tips for Using School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

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

Pack school lunches the night before

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

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

Batch cook

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

Use a bento box

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

Try a meal planning app

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

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

Stay consistent

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

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

What Are Added Sugars?

What Are Added Sugars?

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE ADDED SUGARS?

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

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

The USDA says added sugars are:

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

 

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

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

Related: What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

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

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

ARE ADDED SUGARS BAD?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Identify Added Sugars

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

Stick to foods without sugar and eat real food

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

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

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

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

Read labels

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid juice and sugary drinks

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

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

Related: Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

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

Make healthy sweet treats at home

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

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

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

 

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

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

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

WHY YOU NEED HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW OFTEN SHOULD KIDS SNACK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

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

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

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

1. Vegetables any which way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Fruit and cheese

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

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

3. Smoothies

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

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

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

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

4. Chia seed pudding

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

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

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

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

5. No-bake energy bites

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

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

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

6. A piece of fruit with nut or seed butter

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

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

7. Healthy snack bars

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

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

KIND and Larabar are two of my favorites.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY SNACK BAR FOR KIDS

8. Trail mix

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

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

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

9. Beans


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

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

10. Dried fruit and nuts or seeds

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

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

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

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

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

11. Hard-boiled eggs

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

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

12. Yogurt

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

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

sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

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

13. Popcorn

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

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

14. Muffins

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

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

15. Hummus and mini pitas

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

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

 

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

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

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

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

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

What is fatty liver disease?

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

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

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

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

Types of fatty liver disease

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

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

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

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

Causes of fatty liver disease in kids

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

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

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

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

 

Fatty liver disease symptoms

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

Fatty liver test

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

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

Fatty liver disease treatment

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

Fatty liver diet

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

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

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

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

Get moving

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

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

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


Teach healthy habits

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

  • Eat breakfast
  • Teach kids portion control
  • Serve healthy snacks including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Prioritize family dinners
  • Go grocery shopping or to the farmers’ market together
  • Cook healthy meals together
  • Eat meals at the dinner table—don’t eat on the run.
  • Cut back on screen time
  • Teach kids how to eat mindfully
  • Plant a vegetable garden
2 New Reports Show Childhood Obesity More Of A Concern Than Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Childhood Obesity: Are Parents To Blame?


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: 18.5 percent of kids are obese

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

According to the report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

How to Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

How to Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of a Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

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

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

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

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

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

How many snacks should a child eat a day?

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

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day to get the nutrition they need.

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

“A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about 1-2 hours before the next meal begins,” Jo Ellen Shields, MED, RD, LD, co-author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens, said in this article.

Cons of serving kids snack bars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to choose a healthy snack bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?

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

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

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

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

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

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

While experts agree it’s the trans fats and some saturated fats that should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods are beneficial.

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

Some of my favorite healthy snack bar options

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

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

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

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

Or make your own healthy snack bar

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

Homemade Lara Bars by Super Healthy Kids

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Bars by Mom to Mom Nutrition

Homemade RX Bars by Super Healthy Kids

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars by Yummy Toddler Food

 

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