[VIDEO] 10 Summer Healthy Eating Ideas For Kids

[VIDEO] 10 Summer Healthy Eating Ideas For Kids

Between the longer days, more opportunities to play outside and plenty of fresh, delicious foods available, summer is an ideal time for kids to eat healthy and be active.

Yet for some kids, less structure to the days, more time spent in front of the TV and more opportunities to eat sugar mean kids aren’t eating as many vegetables or healthy foods.

According to a July 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health, body mass index (BMI) for kindergarteners and first graders increased two to three times as fast during the summer than the school year. The study also found kids who were underweight had better eating habits and gained more weight during the school year.

Making sure your kids stay healthy this summer doesn’t have to put a wrench in your plans, however. These summer healthy eating tips will fuel your kids, allow them to have fun and are easy to implement today.


1. Start the Day With Greens

Sometimes you never know how your day will pan out or what your kids will eat: a skipped meal, an impromptu summer get-together with friends or a stop at the ice cream shop.

At the very least, you can start your kids’ day off right with green leafy vegetables, which pack a ton of nutrition and fiber. Make a green smoothie or green juice, add vegetables to eggs or serve leftover sautéed vegetables with avocado toast.

2. Create Structure

If your kids aren’t in summer camp, chances are there will be less structure to their days which could make them more likely to graze all day.

Do your best to have a plan for structured meal and snack times. Also, take into account your kid’s activity level when deciding if they’re actually hungry or just bored when they ask for (yet another) snack.

3. Keep Healthy Foods On Hand

Packaged, processed snacks are easy and convenient especially when you’re headed to the park or the pool, on a road trip, or at home on a rainy day. Yet when hunger strikes, you want to have healthy snacks on hand that will fuel your kids, not deplete them.

Plan ahead and keep cut-up vegetables in clear containers in the refrigerator or a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter. When you’re on the go, assemble healthy snacks beforehand like fruits, vegetables, cheese, and nuts and seeds.

4. Resist Camp Food

Unlike schools, most camps don’t have a nutritionist on hand to evaluate the nutritional value of the food or to devise a (somewhat) healthy menu. If you pack your child’s lunch, it can be tough to pack foods that will hold up in the heat so you may resort to packaged foods.

Instead, invest in a re-usable cooler bag with an ice pack or a PackIt bag to keep healthy, whole foods fresh all day.

5. Stay Hydrated

Hot summer days can leave your kids dehydrated and feeling exhausted so it’s important to make sure they drink plenty of water.

Keep a reusable water bottle on hand and encourage your kids to drink at meals, snacks, and throughout the day. Instead of juice, energy drinks or soda which are high in sugar, stick with plain water or water with slices of cucumber or strawberries for a bit of natural sweetness.

6. Nix The Packages

Processed foods are high in sugar, sodium, trans and saturated fats and lack the fiber and vitamins and minerals kids need. Since processed foods are made with refined carbohydrates, your kids are more likely to complain that they’re still hungry, crave more sugar and because of the spike in blood sugar from eating these foods, they’re more likely to have a meltdown and be irritable.

Although you may not be able to completely do away with all processed foods, look for opportunities to make healthy substitutions with whole foods.

7. Set Limits On Treats

During the summer, it seems that no matter where you bring your kids, there are treats.

I’ll be the first to admit that I bring my kids to our favorite ice-cream spot more than I should but I try to put limits on treats at other times. Decide on how many treats you think are appropriate for your kids. Maybe your rule is treats on the weekends, 2 to 3 times a week or one treat a day.

8. Get Moving

Exercise and staying active go hand in hand with healthy eating. Despite the longer, warmer days, some kids are actually less active during the summer than they are during the school year.

According to the YMCA’s Family Health Snapshot 2015 survey, 64 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours a day online, playing video games or watching TV during the summer and only about half get at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Summer camps or programs that offer sports and opportunities for kids to be active are ideal. Look for affordable options at your local YMCA, local parks and recreation department, colleges, activity centers and places of worship or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Also, look for free ways to move and have fun as a family. Go for a hike, bike ride, or to the park. Volunteer with your kids or encourage them to participate in a community service project or help an elderly neighbor or someone in need.

9. Plant a Garden

A family garden is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating. In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.

If gardening isn’t an option for you, consider joining a local CSA (community-supported agriculture), look for a community garden, volunteer at a farm, plant small pots of herbs at home or look for local weekend events that teach kids how to grow food.

10. Visit a Farmers’ Market

Visiting your local farmers’ market is a great way to encourage summer healthy eating. Kids learn that food isn’t only found in the grocery store and they get to learn about new colorful and delicious varieties of local fruits and vegetables.

Let your kids pick out something new and prepare it together at home which will make they feel empowered and more likely to eat it.

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Eating Habits Kids Should Know

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Eating Habits Kids Should Know

Research shows it takes 21 days to stick to a new habit and the same truth holds for kids. You can’t expect your picky eater to suddenly love broccoli overnight nor can you expect him to be thrilled with snack time when you purge your pantry of everything in a bag or box.

Make no mistake: the healthy eating habits (or lake thereof) kids learn now will follow them throughout their lives.

One of the reasons we’re facing an obesity epidemic and sky high-rates of chronic conditions such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke and autoimmune diseases is because of what we eat. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, approximately 50 percent of adults has one or more preventable chronic diseases that are related to diet and a lack of physical activity.

Teaching your kids these 10 healthy eating habits will help to ensure they’re healthy now—and throughout their lives.

1. Grocery Shopping

Although it takes more time and is more stressful, bring your kids with you to the farmers’ market or grocery store and let them pick out a new food to try each week.

Kids are more likely to eat vegetables and try new foods if they feel empowered to choose what shows up on their plates. Going shopping together also teaches them how to plan meals and make healthy choices.

2. Cooking

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

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

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

3. Staying Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water every day is one of the most basic healthy eating habits kids should know. Dehydration can make your kids feel tired, lack focus and struggle with easy tasks, and become constipated.

Hunger can also be mistaken for thirst so if you make sure your kids are hydrated, it can help prevent mindless snacking and weight gain.

4. Planting A Garden

Our family planted our first vegetable garden this spring and I couldn’t be more excited. If kids don’t grow up on a farm or have never visited one, they don’t know where food comes from and how it’s grown. They won’t know that carrots grow in the ground while apples grow on trees, for example.

Let your kids choose one type of vegetable to plant, and let them help you plant the seeds and pick what you grow. If you don’t have space for a garden, consider growing small plants or herbs.

5. Family Meals

With after-school activities and the frenetic pace most of us keep up, sitting down to a meal can be tough. But when you or your kids eat on the run, chances are it’s not as healthy as a meal they eat at home. Plus, kids can’t eat slowly and mindfully or enjoy what they’re eating when they’re rushed.

Do your best to make family meals a priority most days of the week since studies show kids who eat dinner together are more likely to eat healthy, and less likely to be overweight or have disordered eating. Family meals are also an opportunity for your family to have important conversations and bond.

6. Planning Ahead

One of the best healthy eating habits kids should know is how to be prepared when hunger strikes.

Rather than have a box of crackers or a bag of chips for kids to snack on, let your kids help you wash and chop fruits and vegetables and store them in glass containers.

Pre-portioned produce can be used to make a smoothie or pair them with a bean dip for a healthy snack, for example.

7. Making Room For Treats

For kids to have a healthy relationship with food they need to learn that treats and desserts are part of a healthy diet too.

When and how many times a week is up to you but teaching kids treats can—and should—be enjoyed in moderation is an important lesson to learn and make a habit of throughout their lives.

8. Eating Breakfast

A survey by Kellogg’s found nearly 90 percent of moms want their kids to eat breakfast yet 40 percent say their children don’t eat it everyday.

Eating breakfast keeps blood sugar levels steady, gives kids energy, helps them stay alert and focused and prevents weight gain and obesity.

Breakfast doesn’t have to elaborate or time-consuming. Here are some quick breakfast ideas.

9. Portion Control

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), portion sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the past 20 years and portion control isn’t always something parents talk about at home.

If your kids ask for seconds, it may not be a big deal but teaching kids portion control is still a healthy eating habit kids should know. Teach your kids how to read nutrition facts labels and help them visualize what a portion size actually looks like to avoid overeating.

[VIDEO] 5 Reasons To Stop Feeding Kids “Kid-Friendly” Foods

[VIDEO] 5 Reasons To Stop Feeding Kids “Kid-Friendly” Foods

In the U.S., there’s a belief that if your kids are going to eat anything, it has to consist of “kid-friendly” foods.

Foods like chicken fingers, pizza and macaroni and cheese.

Kids foods are heavily marketed to parents of picky eaters who are desperate to get their kids to eat dinner—at the tune of $1.79 billion a year, a 2012 report by the Federal Trade Commission found.

Brands use favorite cartoon characters, celebrities, toy giveaways, and make pouches, snack packs, cereal boxes, juice boxes and frozen meals that attract kids and make parents’ lives easier.

The truth is that kids can eat what the rest of the family does—they don’t need kid-friendly foods. Here are 5 reasons to consider.


1. Kid-Friendly Foods Promote Picky Eating

If your kid has only a small stable of foods that he eats over and over again, he won’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, nutritious food or form his own food preferences.

Maybe he actually likes cucumbers, but if you tell yourself the only thing he’ll eat is PB&J, you’ll never know—and nor will he.

When kids eat kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief that there’s something special or unique about the way they eat. But picky eating isn’t Celiac disease or a nut allergy. For most kids, it’s a behavior and a choice.

If you continue to serve kid-friendly foods because you think that’s the only thing your kid will eat, that’s exactly what will happen.

2. Kid-Friendly Foods Lack Nutrition

You might think feeding kids food is the only way to ensure your kid will eat something, but what’s the point if what he’s eating is highly processed and lacks the nutrition he needs to grow, develop and reach his milestones?

Most kids’ foods lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients and preservatives.

That organic macaroni and cheese says it’s “made with real cheese” but cheese in a powder form is anything but real.

3. You Shouldn’t Be a Short-Order Cook

According to a 2017 survey by Uber Eats, to appease their kids, 36 percent of parents order food delivery from multiple restaurants and 54 percent sometimes cook multiple meals.

With all that you have to do in a given day, it’s hard enough to get a healthy dinner on the table. So to expect yourself to make an entirely different meal for your picky eater is not only unrealistic and time consuming, but from a parenting perspective, it’s not a good habit to get into.

Don’t get me wrong: when my daughter was a baby, there were times when I gave her a different food if she snubbed what was on her plate. I knew however, that I had better get out of that habit or it would create a bigger problem as she got older.

Giving in teaches kids that you’ll bend when they don’t like what you made for dinner and that behavior breeds a brat.

4. Kid-Friendly Foods Create Anxiety

My husband and I never have to think twice about what our kids will eat when we’re at someone else’s house because our kids eat anything.

It’s a different story however, when we’re the ones who have family and friends over. My husband will always make a meal with several, healthy and delicious options, but he also buys a box of pasta in case the kids refuse to eat what’s being served.

If your kid only eats kid-friendly foods, then you have three choices:

1. Bring something for your child to eat (see #2)

2. Rely on the host to make something else (see #2)

3. Cross your fingers and hope your kid takes a bite of something

When you take kid-friendly foods off the menu and serve kids what you eat, it becomes a lot easier to feed them when you’re at someone else’s home.

5. Kids Miss Opportunities To Eat Real Food

When you frequently serve kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief and a habit that food comes out of a box, a bag or a pouch. Kids miss out on opportunities to enjoy food in its’ whole form and experience all the different flavors and textures only real food provides.

If you want your kids to eat healthy, they need to learn how to cook and how a meal comes together.

Take them to the farmers’ market and the grocery store and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Let them help you in the kitchen, which can encourage them to taste and try new foods.

Serving up real food will help you raise little foodies who know what a real meal should look—and taste—like.

How To Teach Kids Portion Control

How To Teach Kids Portion Control

When you think about dieting and losing weight, portion control often comes to mind. To cut calories, you pay attention to—and cut down—on your portion sizes.

When it comes to teaching kids portion control however, it’s something we don’t usually pay attention to. Although allowing kids to eat foods that are high in calories, sugar and saturated fat like fast food and processed, packaged food is one of the reasons childhood obesity is still on the rise in the U.S., too large portion sizes also play a role.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), portion sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the past 20 years. Large restaurant meals, super-sized fast food and jumbo-sized snacks are available and they’re everywhere. If we eat large portions when we’re out, it’s not surprising that we often eat that way at home too.

I’ll admit it—my kids eat healthy but portion control is something I have been struggling with for years. When they ask for seconds or a large piece of fruit instead of a 1/2 cup serving, I allow them to have it. I don’t want food to be an issue but it’s something that’s always on my mind. The eating habits we teach our kids will set the stage for their relationship with food throughout their lives. Here, read on for some things that have helped me teach my kids portion control and may help you too.

Read Nutrition Facts Labels Together

When your kids can recognize numbers, they’re old enough to scan the nutrition facts labels with you. Show them the serving size and the “servings per container” so they know how many servings are available and how many they should be eating at one time.

Look at the nutrition facts labels on packaged snacks and you’ll be surprised that most contain double—even triple—the single serving your kids should really be eating. It can be deceiving but it’s also a way to teach kids that although it’s tasty enough to eat the entire package, they’ll need to save additional servings for another time.

Use Measuring Cups

When serving meals, use measuring cups or measuring bowls to show kids what an appropriate portion size is for each food. If you let them serve themselves, they’ll also feel empowered to make their own healthy choices.

Get a To-Go Container

When I was trying to lose weight and I went out to dinner, I’d ask the server to bring a to-go container with my meal. Then I divided the meal in half or in thirds and put the rest aside so I wouldn’t eat too much. This trick can work well for your kids too. Whether you order off the kids’ menu, which I don’t recommend, or the main menu, serving the appropriate amount and setting the extra aside will teach kids portion control.

Visualize Portion Sizes

The MyPlate serving sizes can help you figure out how many calories and how many servings of the different food groups your kids should eat each day. Yet sometimes it can be tough to know what the appropriate servings of meat or grains are, for example.

You can help your kids understand portion sizes by visualizing them with your hands or a common object. For example, 3-ounces of turkey is the size of a deck of cards, a serving of nuts is the size of your kid’s palm, while one serving of fruit like an apple is the size of a tennis ball.

Use Kid-Size Plates

Serving kids meals on large dinner plates can cause them to eat more. In fact, when kids were given adult-sized dishes, they served themselves more food and ate 50 percent of calories they dished out, a 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics found.

Instead of serving your kid’s meals on the same size plate you use, always serve their meals on a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate. Or purchase the MyPlate Divided Kids Plate which makes portion sizes easy.

Plan and Pre-Pack

For trips to the park, play dates or school snacks, spend some time to pre-sort individual portions of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other healthy snacks. Keeping these on hand in your refrigerator or pantry will ensure your kids won’t overeat when they’re at home too.

Let Them Help

Encouraging your kids to watch or help you plate meals will teach them about portion control. They can scoop out portions of vegetables or slice cooked sweet potatoes, for example.

Teach Them Hunger and Fullness Cues


One of the reasons kids and adults are overweight is because in our rushed society, we often fail to eat mindfully. At school, kids don’t have a lot of time to eat and adults often eat in front of their computers, in the car or on the run.

When kids become attuned to how they feel when they’re a little hungry, very hungry, not hungry and full, they’ll be able to regulate how much they eat. Kids often want to eat when they’re bored, upset or tired but this is an unhealthy habit that can carry over into adulthood.


Have regular conversations with your kids about what it feels like to be hungry: “your stomach growls,” or what it feels like to be overly full: “your stomach feels uncomfortable.” As they get older, they’ll be able to listen to their hunger and fullness cues and pay attention to their portions.

5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids  Cooking with your kids is about so much more than food. It's a life skill with loads of advantages.

5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking with your kids is about so much more than food. It's a life skill with loads of advantages.

It’s challenging enough to get dinner on the table every night so the thought of cooking with your kids probably seems unrealistic or an activity reserved for a snow day.

You might be wondering, why do kids need to learn how to cook? When they’re older, they can get virtually any type of cuisine at the grocery store, restaurants or their favorite take-out joint, right?

Cooking is a life skill, one that seems to be dying out.

In fact, according to a March 2015 study published in the Journal of Public Health, teens admit most of their “cooking” was out of a jar, reheated pizza or cheese on toast.

It seems that millenials are no better. A January 2015 survey by NPD Group found only 45 percent of those between ages 18 and 24 and 64 percent of those between ages 25 and 34 say they’re “somewhat good” or “good” at cooking.

Thanks to meal kit delivery services—and industry that generated nearly 1.5 billion in sales in 2016—it’s no wonder kids don’t know how to cook and perhaps don’t care to.

Teaching your kids how to cook is about so much more than the food itself. Here are 5 surprising benefits of cooking with your kids.


1. Cooking Makes Kids Healthy


Research shows eating home-cooked meals is healthier than eating out. Children who eat with their families at least 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 with your kids also allows you to talk about the meal you’re making such as why you they need to eat protein and what a healthy plate looks like.


2. Cooking Can Put An End To Picky Eating


My kids love to cook with me and although it’s time consuming and they always spill something, I’ve noticed a pattern. If we make a new dish, they want to taste it and if it’s something we make all the time, they not only want a taste but they’re so proud when we sit down to eat it.

When kids take part in cooking, they learn each step of the process and they feel empowered because they had a hand in making the meal.

When they understand and experience cooking, they’re more likely to be adventurous foodies. Of course, we all have our own food preferences so if they don’t like something you’ve made, it’s still not a lost opportunity. It’s one more chance to expand their palates and try new flavors, tastes and textures.



3. Cooking Gives Kids Confidence


We want to raise children who are confident in their abilities and self-sufficient, not kids who need therapy because the person they voted for lost the election. Likewise, we don’t want to raise children who don’t know how to cook for themselves, their partners or their own kids.

Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult especially if you use recipes or have a stable of dishes you already know how to make. Teaching kids how to cook at an early age gives them the life skills and confidence to take ingredients and make them into a meal. That confidence will likely translate into other areas and stick with them throughout their lives.



4. Cooking Teaches Math and Sparks Creativity


Following a recipe requires kids to learn math, measurements and time. They also learn about how spices bring out the flavor in certain foods and how different cooking methods change the end result, for example.

If you don’t follow a recipe to a T, kids also learn how to make substitutions or alter the taste and it becomes a lesson in creativity, much like a science experiment.



5. Cooking Brings You Closer


Kids spend too much time watching TV and on devices, especially during the winter months when it’s hard to get outside.

When you cook with your kids however, you talk, bond, share stories and create memories. And who knows—you might be raising the next Giada De Laurentiis.

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


Do you spend time cooking with your kids? What benefits have you seen? Let me know in the comments!

10 Easy Kitchen Hacks To Get Kids To Eat Healthier  Stop begging your kids to eat healthier and use these easy tips instead.

10 Easy Kitchen Hacks To Get Kids To Eat Healthier

Stop begging your kids to eat healthier and use these easy tips instead.

You want your kids to eat healthier but let’s face it: meal planning, shopping, prepping and cooking takes some serious time, not to mention all the clean up afterwards.

Aside from the occasional dinner in a restaurant or take out, every meal my kids eat comes out of our home kitchen. Thankfully, my husband cooks a lot too but suffice to say, we spend several hours each week to make sure our kids eat real, fresh, whole foods.

Through the years, I’ve discovered some easy kitchen hacks that have helped me save time and made my life easier. Here are 10.

1. Clean the Counter

If you’re like me and you like things clean and organized, then a messy kitchen counter can make you feel stressed out. Just as your bed must be made every day and the toys picked up every night, your kitchen counters need to be clutter-free so that you’ll actually look forward to cooking healthy meals.

Interestingly, research suggests that a messy kitchen can also make you and your family eat more. In fact, a February 2016 study in the journal Environment and Behavior found women in cluttered kitchens consumed twice as many calories from cookies than those who were in a tidy kitchen.

To keep your kitchen clean, store large kitchen appliances in the pantry, cabinets or drawers, donate those you don’t need and find a place for everything else. Have a system and a spot to store miscellaneous items like mail and papers from school.

2. Use Only One Pot

Instead of taking out several pots and pans to make dinner, save time by making stir-fries, one pot or slow cooker meals. Or roast foil packet dinners or an entire meal on one pan.

3. Grab and Go

Grocery stores make it easier than ever to get healthy meals on the dinner in no time. Rather than spending time to peel and chop vegetables, pick up mirepoix, minced garlic, sliced butternut squash and spiralized zucchini at the store, for example.

4. Put Healthy Food On Display

When it comes to getting your kids to eat healthier, make sure they can easily see and reach for healthy fare.

In fact, when fruit was placed in a colorful bowl, in a well-lit, convenient part of the school lunch line, sales of fruit increased by a whopping 105 percent, a July 2011 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found.

Put a bowl of fruit out on the counter, store cut up vegetables in clear containers in the refrigerator or put individual bags of almonds in the front of the pantry.

5. Batch Cook

When your week gets hectic with work, school, after-school activities and other obligations, cooking healthy meals can easily fall by the wayside.

Yet simply taking an hour or two to pull together ingredients for smoothies, make individual portions of snacks, batch cook vegetables and pre-chop lettuce for salads can make your life much easier during the week. You can also make large batches of meals and freeze them so you’ll always have something ready for dinner.

6. Stock Up

When there’s nothing to eat and you’re tight on time, the fast-food drive-through or your favorite take out joint is usually the next best choice.

Yet if you have quick and easy staples on hand at all times, you can always get a meal on the table.

Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables, fish and cooked shrimp which is quick and easy. Keep individual mason jars with grains like quinoa or brown rice and cans of beans for a fast meal

7. Make Breakfast The Night Before

It might be a fast breakfast option, but most cereals aren’t healthy. If you can’t carve out the time to make a healthy breakfast in the morning, make it at night.

Set aside individual portions of ingredients for smoothies like veggies, fruits, chia seeds and almond butter. Make overnight oats in individual mason jars or a batch of egg “muffins” or a large frittata that your kids can eat over several days.

8. Use Small Dishes

How much your kids eat is just as important as what they eat. Kids can easily eat too much if you use adult-sized plates.

When you serve a meal or a snack, you can teach your kids about portion sizes by letting them use a measuring cup or bowl which will also make them feel empowered by their choices.

9. Serve a Buffet

Kids love choices so if you put out a buffet, they may actually eat healthier than when you serve one meal. Heat up leftover vegetables and proteins, add a salad and you can have a healthy dinner on the table in no time.

10. Clean As You Go

When I start to cook, I also load the dishwasher or clean the dishes at the same time. There’s nothing better than sitting down to dinner and a clean kitchen, but if you clean while you cook it also saves time on clean up after dinner.

10 Bad Eating Habits Ruining Your Kid’s Health

10 Bad Eating Habits Ruining Your Kid’s Health

Getting your kids to eat more vegetables, try new foods and stop being picky eaters once and for all is no easy feat. No matter how hard you try to get your kids to eat healthy however, these bad eating habits can hinder your best efforts and ruin your kid’s health.

1. Relying On Packages

Crackers, chips, fruit leather and other snack foods are easy and convenient for school, sports or at the park, but continue to feed your kids processed snacks and they’ll grow up thinking eating foods out of bags, boxes and canisters is the norm.

Blame it on the sugar and salt, but these highly processed foods are also the most addictive, a 2015 study out of the University of Michigan found.

Of course, most packaged snacks lack fiber, protein and nutrition and are filled with sodium, refined carbohydrates, sugar and sodium. Over time, eating fake food can lead to inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and a slew of health problems.

2. Hitting the Drive-Through

You might not go to McDonald’s or Burger King but fast food restaurants often marketed as healthier are anything but.

Most of these places serve foods high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. They may have grilled chicken and apple slices for example, but I think it’s safe to say most kids are ordering the French fries.

Visiting these fast food joints frequently can put your kids at an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and weight gain. Not to mention that when kids eat fast food regularly, they lose all taste for real food.

3. Serving Juice

You might think juice is a healthy option for your child and although it can be a source of some vitamins and minerals, most kids don’t need juice nor should they be drinking it. Juice lacks fiber, is high in sugar and caters to kids’ sweet preferences. Drinking juice can also spike your kids’ blood sugar, cause cavities and lead weight gain.

4. Skipping Breakfast

The mornings are hectic especially when you have to get to work, drop the kids off at daycare or get them to school. Yet breakfast is the most important meal of the day especially for kids because it keeps their blood sugar levels steady, gives them the energy they need to learn and play and helps them stay alert and focused.

Eating breakfast may also prevent kids from feeling famished by lunch time and prevent weight gain.

5. Forgetting Family Meals

Between after-school activities and hectic schedules, it can be challenging to have dinner as a family together every night.

Yet children who eat with their families at least 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.

The good news: dinner may be the only time you’re able to sit down as a family but other meals count too.

6. Mindless Munching

As moms, we’re constantly multitasking. But rushing through meals, eating in the car, while checking email or rummaging through the pantry instead of sitting down to a meal are bad habits that your kids can pick up too.

Just as your kids can learn to love salads, they can learn your unhealthy eating habits and carry with them throughout their lives. It’s one of the reasons more than a third of adults are obese.

When eating meals, sit down at the table, avoid distractions and savor your food. To ensure your kids are hungry for meals, don’t let them snack all day.

7. Serving Kids’ Foods

Chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza are sure-fire foods to get picky eaters to eat something but feeding kids a separate meal or foods you know they’ll eat also ensures they’ll continue to be picky eaters.

If they don’t have opportunities every day to taste and experience new, fresh, real foods, they can’t form food preferences or be willing to accept new foods. They’ll also miss out on key nutrients they would otherwise get from a healthy diet.

8. Stocking the Kitchen With Tempting Foods

If your kitchen pantry is filled with junk, it’s only natural that your kids will reach for it.

Slowly purge all of the unhealthy fare and keep healthy foods you want your kids to eat in plain sight, like a fruit bowl on the counter or cut up veggies in the front of the refrigerator.

9. Eating Too Much Sugar

Sweet treats and sly marketing are everywhere, tempting kids to ask, “can I have that?” Even if you don’t keep sugar in your house, chances are you kids can get a lollipop at the bank, an ice cream at the mall or candy a gas station or rest stop.

It’s not just sweets that are high in sugar but sugar is in sneaky sources and can add up quickly if you’re not taking stock. In fact, between 2011 and 2014, more than 62 percent of kids consumed a sugary-sweetened beverage, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Set limits on what you think is fair: maybe it’s a treat a day or treats only on the weekends.

10. Pleading, Negotiating and Bribing

Next to bedtime, mealtimes can be one of the most challenging times of day and it’s almost always a power struggle. Not only is it incredibly frustrating to negotiate one more bite in exchange for dessert for example, but kids learn their meal is less desirable than dessert and they never learn how to make healthy choices.

Instead, offer plenty of healthy options and empower kids to make their own choices so whatever they choose will be OK with you.

7 Ways To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

7 Ways To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

When you’re an emotional eater like I am, it can be challenging to teach your kids healthy heating habits. If your kids see you overeating, eating on the go or eating when you’re bored, stressed or upset, chances are they’ll pick up the same unhealthy eating habits. Yet just as you can inadvertently teach poor habits, you can teach healthy ones too. Here are 7 ways to make it happen.

1. Eat meals together

According to a 2014 study, 88 percent of families say they eat meals together most days or a few days a week, which is a good thing because it’s one of the best ways to teach kids healthy eating habits.

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

2. Sit at the table

Kids can easily fall into a habit of walking into the kitchen, grabbing something to eat and eat standing up. Even if it’s a quick snack, kids should sit down, slow down, focus on what they’re eating and pay attention to their fullness cues. Sitting down also ensures they won’t eat so fast they’ll overeat.

3. Talk about hunger and fullness signals

Toddlers and young kids may not be able to recognize when they’re hungry versus when they’re bored or simply want a snack. It’s important however, to teach kids how to recognize their hunger signals.

When I joined Weight Watchers, they gave me photos of several different sized balloons to describe the various stages of hunger which would work well for kids too. You can also teach your kids that when you’re hungry, your stomach makes funny noises and when you’ve eaten too much your stomach feels uncomfortable or even painful, for example.

4. Never use food as a reward or as punishment

It can be tempting to offer your kids a snack or a treat to get them to behave well in a public place or get through a doctor’s appointment without tears, for example. I often find myself falling into this trap but in the reverse way. When my kids start to act up, we’ll threaten to take treats away, which isn’t a good idea either.

When you use food as a reward or as punishment, you’re teaching them that food has power. As adults, they may treat themselves to dinner or a piece of cake after a long, stressful day or not allow themselves to eat something “off limits” if they’ve gained weight or didn’t hit the gym that day. Instead, give your kid a hug, a high five or a sticker and when they’re behaving badly, firm limits.

5. Don’t bribe kids with dessert

Dina Rose, PhD, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli, calls it the “dessert deal.” You offer your kids dessert but only after they eat their  vegetables. This teaches kids that vegetables are less desirable than dessert or should only be eaten to get dessert.

Dr. Rose suggests re-thinking dessert and offering yogurt, baked fruit or a smoothie instead. Yet it’s important to teach kids that vegetables can be healthy and delicious at the same time. Although I don’t believe in hiding vegetables, you can roast them, add a healthy dip like hummus or add different seasonings for your kids to eventually love them.

6. Eat mindfully

Mindfulness has become trendy in recent years and for good reason. Studies show mindful eating can help prevent childhood obesity. A 2016 pilot study from the Medical College of Georgia at August University showed that mindfulness-based eating awareness training encouraged overweight teens to eat healthier and exercise.

If you rush through meals or reach for seconds before you wait to assess your hunger—about 20 minutes—you’ll model how your kids can do the same. Instead, teach kids how to savor each bite, chew thoroughly and put their fork down into bites.

7. Don’t eat on the run

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

Suffice to say, many kids eat snacks in the car and are forced to eat on the run because of busy afternoons or even mornings. And eating on the run can even cause kids to skip meals. According to a survey by Barbara’s, 50 percent of kids who eat on the go or in the car skip breakfast at least once a week.

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


What are some healthy eating habits you’re teaching your kids?

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make That Prevent Eating Healthy

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make That Prevent Eating Healthy

When it comes to raising kids who eat healthy, you already know the obvious mistakes: too much sugar, not enough vegetables and relying on a package instead of real, wholesome food.

Yet there are other not so clear-cut but common food mistakes parents make despite their best efforts to get their kids to eat healthy. Read on to find out if you’re making the same mistakes and learn what you can do to ensure your kids are eating healthy.


1. Thinking “gluten free” means healthy

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

Yet just because the label says “gluten free,” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So many of the gluten free products sold in stores contain artificial ingredients, sweeteners and food dyes you don’t want your kids eating.

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

2. Serving sports drinks

According to a January 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, between 2011 and 2014, nearly two-thirds of kids in the United States consumed at least one sugary drink on any given day and almost one third drank two or more.

You might think giving your kids a sports or energy drink is a wise idea especially after a practice or game, but these drinks are loaded with sugar. Let’s look at a bottle of Gatorade. It contains a whopping 24 grams of sugar, as much as one package of Twix bars.

Not only is drinking sugar-sweetened beverages linked to weight gain, high cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes but that spike in blood sugar—and subsequent crash—is the last thing your kids need after time on the field.

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and offer water or water infused with lemon, cucumber or strawberries, which is enough to quench your kids’ thirst and rehydrate.

3. Being a short order cook

If your goal is to get your kids to eat new foods, then cooking a separate meal for them because you’re sure they won’t eat what you served is a big mistake. Not to mention that you’re handing over your power and teaching them that you’ll cater to their preferences.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t give your children choices however, because choices are empowering. If you offer two types of green vegetables or serve two healthy side dishes and let them decide what they want, it’s a win-win for everyone.

What if he doesn’t want to eat? Don’t stress—he won’t starve. After a few nights, he’ll eventually realize that’s how your family eats and he’ll be more amenable.

4. Serving “kid-friendly” food alongside a healthy dinner

I get it: it’s really easy and convenient to open a box of macaroni and cheese and serve it to your kids. It’s a guaranteed win, right?

But here’s the thing: if you’re serving kid-friendly foods because you know your kids aren’t going to eat the healthy dinner you made, they will rarely have the opportunity to taste and experience new types of healthy food. They’ll never crave healthy food the way you do and the picky eating behaviors will continue.

5. Sneaking vegetables

The success of Jessica Seinfield’s book “Deceptively Delicious,” and Missy Chase Lapine’s “The Sneaky Chef,” prove parents will do anything to get their kids to eat healthy. Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so your kids will get the nutrients they need and they’ll be none the wiser sounds like a brilliant idea but it’s one big mistake.

Sneaking vegetables into meals defeats the entire purpose of teaching our kids how to eat healthy, make choices for themselves and giving them the opportunity to love healthy food.

Pureeing vegetables can add nutrition to a sauce or a muffin but it should never be a replacement for healthy food in its original form.

6. Making funny faces with food

You’ve seen the creations in cookbooks, parenting magazines and on Pinterest: ordinary fruits and vegetables are transformed into extraordinary funny faces, animals and art masterpieces.

Making a smiley face with fruit salad is cute every once in awhile and it can get your kids—especially toddlers—to try new foods but it shouldn’t be something you do regularly. You want your kids to eat and enjoy healthy food and presenting in a way they’ll eat it throughout their lives instead of expecting food to be a work of art.

10 Ways To Prevent Childhood Obesity

10 Ways To Prevent Childhood Obesity

We all know the staggering statistics: childhood obesity in the United States has more than doubled in the past 30 years and today, 30 percent of children are overweight or obese.

Perhaps even more alarming is that the epidemic is affecting kids at earlier ages than ever before. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 8.4 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are obese.

Whether you’re pregnant, just had a baby or have a big kid, there are things you can do to prevent your kid from being overweight or obese, even if genetics aren’t on your side.

1. Pay attention to pregnancy weight gain

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained too much weight because I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating and how much.

Not only can gaining too much weight during pregnancy increase your risk for things like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm birth, and birth defects, but studies show pregnancy weight gain is also linked to childhood obesity.

According to a recent study published in the journal Obesity, babies born to women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight before 24 weeks were 2.5 times more likely to be born large.

Of course, every pregnancy is different and sometimes you can’t control every last pound, but do your best to stay within the recommendations for pregnancy weight gain:

  • 25 to 35 pounds if you have a normal weight.
  • 15 to 25 pounds if you’re overweight.
  • 11 to 20 pounds if you’re overweight.  


2. Breastfeed

Breastfeeding has so many benefits and studies suggest it can even prevent childhood obesity.

In fact, babies who are breastfed have a 22 percent lower risk of childhood obesity than those who were never breastfed, a 2014 meta-analysis published in BMC Public Health found.

3. Don’t add cereal to your baby’s bottle

If you’re formula feeding, you may have heard adding rice cereal to your baby’s bottle before he starts eating solids is a good idea if he’s overly hungry or to help him sleep through the night.

Yet the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this isn’t a good idea. Not only are babies not ready, but it may increase their risk for food allergies and cause them to take in too many calories.

Pediatricians however, may recommend the practice for babies with GERD, so you should always speak to your child’s doctor first.

4. Start with healthy solids

The best way to ensure your child will eat healthy, whole foods as he gets older and reduce his risk for childhood obesity, is to offer a variety of whole fruits and vegetables when he starts solids.

Consistency is key so if your baby shuns broccoli the first few times, stick with it. Chances are he’ll eventually learn to love it.

5. Eat whole-foods

It’s no surprise that fast food and processed, packaged foods are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar which are all linked to childhood obesity.

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 your kids the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and fiber to keep them satiated and keep weight gain at a healthy pace.

6. Don’t bring junk food in the house

So many families I know buy crackers, chips and granola bars for their kids. It seems that we have a belief in the U.S. that kids should eat this way and there’s really nothing wrong with it.

But make no mistake: feed your kids this way now will increase their risk for weight gain. They’re also more likely to always eat this way throughout their lives.

Once you decide as a family that you’ll eat healthy and make changes, start today. This could be a huge shock to kids who have been eating this way for years so start small: nix one bag or box a week until you’ve entirely purged your pantry of junk.

7. Cut down on screen time

I’ll admit it: keeping my kids off the iPad is tough.

When I have to clean the house or make a phone call, it’s really easy to put them in front of the screen. Yet the more time kids spend on devices, the less time they’re spending moving.

To cut down on screen time, set a timer, restrict the devices to weekends-only or set limits on when and for how long they’re allowed to use them.

8. Get moving together

Kids should get 60 minutes of exercise everyday but many families find this hard to do especially if both parents work or if kids are in after-school activities that aren’t sports.

 Although it can be challenging to find the time, your kids won’t be motivated to be active if you’re not.

My kids know that my husband and I both work out at the gym several times a week and as a family we do our best to take walks after dinner, have an indoor “dance party” on rainy or snow days or play Twister.

9. Cut sugar

Kids love their treats but over-indulging in sugar in everything from candy, soda and juice, to yogurt and energy bars has been shown to increase the risk for childhood obesity.

Kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day so start reading labels and be choosy about what you’re buying. The most common types of foods that contain added sugars are soda, sports and energy drinks and sweetened teas.

10. Make it a family affair

You can spend all your time and energy cooking healthy meals and running your kids around to after-school sports, but if you’re not living a healthy lifestyle, your kids may feel less motivated to do so.

If you want to prevent your kids from being overweight, healthy has to be a family affair.

Instead of making drastic changes overnight however, make one small change each week.

Maybe that means serving vegetables instead of chips for after-school snacks, cooking a healthy meal together or going for a family bike ride.

The key is that the changes are realistic, manageable and consistent.


Sick Kid? How to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

Sick Kid? How to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

If it feels like your kid is sick almost every week, you’re not imagining it. Kids under the age of 6 in particular get 8 to 10 colds a year, not including the countless fevers, infections and stomach bugs they’ll get this year.

Kids are like little Petri dishes for germs, especially when they’re in daycare and school. They all touch the same surfaces, share the same toys and put everything in their mouths.

They all have to wash their hands after they use the bathroom and before meals but are they using enough soap and washing properly? It’s questionable.

When my daughters started school last year, I was prepared for them to get sick—a lot. Although they had a few fevers and colds, and one had norovirus, for the most part they were relatively healthy.

Did we get lucky? Maybe.

But more likely, it was a because of a few things I did to improve their immunity which might help your kid too.

Cut the crappy food

Since the gut makes up to 70 percent of the immune system, making sure your kid’s gut is healthy can also boost his immune system.

If your kid lives on foods that come out of a bag, box, or package, however, he could be missing key vitamins and minerals that keep him healthy and his immune systems strong.

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

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

Eat the rainbow

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

Add fermented foods

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

Take probiotics

Probiotics have become popular in recent years, particularly for their ability to improve gut health, experts say. Some studies show probiotics can shorten the duration of diarrhea associated with a stomach virus or a course of antibiotics and may reduce upper respiratory infections.

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

Move more

My kids are constantly in motion and they play at the park and the playground, take movement classes and after-dinner walks, but I still find getting them 60 minutes exercise a day a challenge. Nevertheless, I do my best to make sure they get some form of exercise in every day.

Exercise has so many benefits for kids, and as it turns out, can improve their gut health and immunity. In fact, a study in the journal Gut shows exercise may diversity gut microbes.

During the dog days of winter or on snow days when you can’t get out, put on music and have a dance party or enjoy a game of Twister.