9 Easy Christmas Snacks For Kids

9 Easy Christmas Snacks For Kids

Christmas is, in many ways, like Thanksgiving in that your kids may not like what’s being served. You might be able to get them to eat pasta for example, but fish, prime rib or any type of fancy side dish can be a tough sell. Even if they do eat, you may still be looking for some easy appetizers and finger foods for them and everyone else to munch on. That’s why I compiled this list of 10 easy Christmas snacks for kids which are all delicious, will satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and are the perfect addition to your holiday spread. 

1. SMOKY ROASTED CARROT DIP

Kids love dips and with this Smoky Roasted Carrot Dip, you’ve got a ton of flavor and creamy goodness. Pair it with whole grain tortilla chips, mini-pitas, celery sticks or broccoli florets, and you have a healthy, delicious option for kids to nosh on.

 

2. CHAI SPICED PECANS

Candied nuts are a holiday tradition and these Chai Spiced Pecans are the perfect way to add some festivity to your holiday table. A good source of fiber, protein and healthy fats kids need, they’re a snack you can feel good about serving up. With just a few simple ingredients, and less than 15 minutes to make, they’re also one of the best easy Christmas snacks for kids.

3. 1-BOWL CHOCOLATE ORANGE COOKIES

If you’re looking for a quick and easy cookie recipe, these 1-Bowl Chocolate Orange Cookies do not disappoint. No mixing, no creaming the butter and no waiting to chill the dough. These cookies use minimal ingredients, take just 10 minutes to prep and are bursting with goodness.

4. EASY & HEALTHY PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

These Easy & Healthy Peanut Butter Balls are sweet and salty (my favorite), no-bake and can be made ahead of time. For a gluten-free option, use gluten-free oats or coconut flour.

5. CRUNCHY ROASTED CUMIN CHICKPEAS

There’s no doubt kids love finger foods and these Crunchy Roasted Cumin Chickpeas make some of the best easy Christmas snacks for kids. High in protein and fiber, you can adjust the spices to suit your kid’s taste. The best part is that they only take 5 minutes to prep and it’s a dish your kids can help you make.

6. EASY CHRISTMAS FRUIT KABOBS

When it comes to easy Christmas snacks for kids, it doesn’t get better than these Easy Christmas Fruit Kabobs. With 4 simple ingredients, lots of natural sweetness and just 10 minutes to make, they’ll be a hit with your kids and guests alike.

7. CHRISTMAS COOKIE CUTTER TORTILLA CHIPS

When I discovered this recipe for Christmas Cookie Cutter Tortilla Chips, I was really blown away by blog founder Lyndsay’s creativity. With just 4 ingredients, these chips are a great alternative to store-bought versions and they’re gluten-free. Serve them solo, with salsa or guacamole, and they’re sure to be a hit with the kiddos.

8. GLUTEN-FREE WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT PRETZELS

With all the amazing desserts and treats around Christmastime, following a gluten-free diet can be tough. That’s why I love these Gluten-Free White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels. Salty and sweet, and oh so festive, these treats call for just a few ingredients and only take 20 minutes to make.

9. CHRISTMAS CANDY CANE COOKIES

When I was a kid, my mom made these Christmas Candy Cane Cookies every year and I loved them. With yummy peppermint flavor and plenty of festive color, these cookies will look like you spent hours in the kitchen.

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.

15 Best Travel Snacks for Toddlers

15 Best Travel Snacks for Toddlers

Whether you’ll be flying, taking a road trip or hopping on a train to visit family for the holidays, traveling with toddlers can be stressful. You’ll probably be thinking about how to keep them occupied with toys, books, and special stuffed animals as well as how to avoid meltdowns. Chances are, you’re also looking for healthy, easy travel snacks for toddlers.

While we’re not frequent jet-setters nor do we travel a lot, I have taken several flights and road trips with my kids when they were babies and toddlers and I can tell you from experience that you can never pack enough snacks.

Getting through airport security screening, walking to the gate and going to the bathroom for example, always takes twice as long. So having snacks on hand can keep your kids fueled and happy for the long haul and also help you avoid pricey fare at the airport and at rest stops.

Best Travel Snacks for Toddlers

The key is to pack snacks that are healthy, simple and mess-free, and those your kids will actually eat. Here are 15 travel snacks for toddlers that will making this holiday season stress-free.

1. Trail mix

Trail mix can be a great snack for kids, but not all types are created equal.

Most store-bought trail mixes are packed with salty nuts, dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms for example, so they’re high in sugar and sodium.

When looking for a healthy trail mix, read food labels carefully and stick with those that have only unsalted nuts and seeds and dried fruit. Or consider making your own trail mix with ingredients like raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts so you can control the ingredients.

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

2. Fresh fruit

Whole or cut-up fresh fruit like apples, pears, bananas, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and figs are healthy, easy options.

Related: 5 HEALTH BENEFITS OF FIGS

3. Cereal

Most kids love to munch on cereal, which is why it’s one of the best travel snacks for toddlers.

Unfortunately, when it comes to finding a healthy kids’ cereal, there aren’t a ton to choose from.

There are those that are obvious sugar bombs with their bright, artificial colors, marshmallows and favorite characters on the box, but cereals that have health claims like “a good source of fiber,” “gluten-free,” and “made with real fruit,” aren’t the best options either because many are high in sugar.

When comparing brands, look for cereals that have whole grains and are high in fiber. Bonus points if the cereal has a good amount of protein.

Avoid those that have added sugars, artificial ingredients, food dyes and preservatives.

Related: WHAT ARE ADDED SUGARS?

4. Tortilla roll-ups

A tortilla roll-up cut up into small pieces like sushi is a great snack option for your toddlers when you’re traveling.

It also couldn’t be easier to pull together.

Take a whole grain tortilla, spread it with a nut or seed butter, add a banana, roll it tightly and slice it crosswise into pieces.

You can also add smashed berries or a low-sugar jam, or use turkey and cheese, for example.

5. Yogurt tubes

Yogurt is one of the best travel snacks for toddlers because it’s high in protein and a kid-favorite, but be sure to read labels because many are high in sugar.

Siggi’s Yogurt Tubes or Stonyfield Organic’s Whole Milk Tubes Strawberry Beet Berry are two of my favorites for kids.

To prevent yogurt from spoiling, put it in a snack bag with an ice pack, use a freezable bag (I love the PackIt freezable snack bags), or simply freeze the yogurt ahead of time.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY KIDS’ YOGURT

6. Granola and snacks bars

Just like trail mix, granola bars can be healthy travel snacks for toddlers, but look for those that have protein and fiber, which will balance your kid’s blood sugar levels and satisfy his hunger.

When looking for a healthy granola bar, look for those with the least amount of sugar possible.

Sugar is sneaky and can be hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Also be sure to avoid granola bars with saturated fat and instead, look for those that have heart-healthy fats with ingredients like nuts, peanut butter, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

Some of my favorite bars include KIND, Larabar and RX Bar.

7. Fruit and veggie pouches

Squeezable pouches of apple sauce, or those that have a mix of fruit and vegetable purees, come in really handy when you’re traveling.

8. Crudités

Pack cut-up vegetables like celery, cucumber, carrots, jicama, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and sugar snap peas.

Toddlers love to dip so pair veggies with a nut butter, bean dip, hummus or guacamole for a healthy, protein and fiber-filled snack.

9. Hard-boiled eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 7 grams—and they’re a great portable option whether you’re flying or driving to your destination.

10. Cheese sticks

High in protein, cheese is one of the best travel snacks for toddlers.

Pair your kid’s favorite kind of cheese with whole grain crackers, tomatoes or slices of fruit like apples and pears.

11. 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.

12. Beans, peas or edamame

It may sound like a strange option, but beans, peas, or edamame are one of the best travels snacks for toddlers. Not only do toddlers love finger foods, but these are all a good source of protein and fiber so they’ll  keep your tot feeling full for hours.

13. Nut butter

Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and sunflower seed butter are all great options.

You can buy individual packets like those from Justin’s or pack your own in individual snack containers.

Pair it with whole grain crackers or fresh fruit or veggies and you have a healthy, satisfying snack.

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, zucchini or spinach, for example.

Need a recipe? Try this one for Sweet Spinach Muffins With Banana.

15. No-bake energy bites

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

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

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

6 Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

6 Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes

Having enough food for Thanksgiving—or any family get-together for that matter— is something that my Italian-American family always worries about. If it so happened that we didn’t have enough food, it would be downright embarrassing, even a “sin.” Of course, that never happens and in fact, we always have way too much and plenty of leftovers.

If you too, have a refrigerator that’s filled to capacity after the holiday and you’re looking for ways to re-purpose all that turkey, cranberry sauce and the other fixings, here are 6 Thanksgiving leftover recipes to try.

1. Healthy Easy Turkey Pot Pie

With a crispy topping thanks to phyllo sheets, and a warm filling of turkey and vegetables, this Healthy Easy Turkey Pot Pie is one of the best Thanksgiving leftover recipes your kids will love. The best part? It takes only 15 minutes to pull together.

2. Cranberry Sauce Quickbread

I love cranberry sauce but there’s always so much leftover. And besides, how much of it can you really eat?

That’s why I love this recipe for Cranberry Sauce Quickbread. Gluten-free, nut-free and vegan, this bread is a great option for breakfast, brunch, school lunch or after-school snacks.

3. Easy Turkey Soup With Cabbage

If you’re looking for a way to transform leftover turkey into a healthy dinner, this Easy Turkey Soup With Cabbage is perfect. With a mix of herbs and spices, and packed with protein, this soup is a satisfying option to warm you up on cold nights.

4. Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich

This Thanksgiving Leftovers Sandwich has the best of everything: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and if you’re so inclined, throw in some lettuce.

5. Copycat Panera Turkey Chili – Instant Pot Recipe

Panera Bread is known for their warm, savory soups and chilis and this Copycat Panera Turkey Chili – Instant Pot Recipe is the perfect way to enjoy it at home. With leftover turkey, simple ingredients and plenty of flavor, you can relax and do some online shopping on Black Friday because dinner will be ready in 15 minutes.

6. Leftover Turkey Dinner Tacos

If you’re looking for a non-sandwich idea for Thanksgiving leftovers, try these Leftover Turkey Dinner Tacos. Pick a hard or soft taco shell, pile in the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy and you have a quick and easy meal over the weekend.

 

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipes? Let me know in the comments!

10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas

10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas

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

 

 

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS FOR PICKY EATERS

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

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

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

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

 

LOOK FOR FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS TOGETHER

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

 

 

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS: COOK TOGETHER

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

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

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

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

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

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS

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

 

15 MINUTE CRANBERRY BRIE BITES

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

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

EASY TURKEY ROLL UPS

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

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

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

 

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

 

BAKED CARROT FRENCH FRIES

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

 

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

CHEESY LEFTOVER MASHED POTATO MUFFINS

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

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

 

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

The Complete Guide To Healthy Eating For Kids

The Complete Guide To Healthy Eating For Kids

We all want our kids to eat healthy, try new foods and be adventurous little foodies, but when it comes to finding information about healthy eating for kids, there are so  many sources, you don’t know where to start.

On the one hand, you have experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Then you have countless books, parenting websites and food blogs that have a wealth of kid-friendly recipes meant to encourage healthy eating. Of course, you also have Facebook groups for moms of picky eaters and Instagram influencers serving up picture-perfect school lunch ideas that are almost impossible to replicate.

I think all of these sources can help you raise healthy eaters, but sometimes all you really want is to have all of the information, tips and advice in one place.

So today, I’m serving up evidence-based information and my best strategies in this complete guide to healthy eating for kids.

Healthy eating habits for kids

The healthy eating habits we teach our kids now will set them up for success now and throughout their lives.

Make time for breakfast

The old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” holds true today as it always has.

Kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found.

Eating a healthy breakfast also gives kids the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school. In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions. According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who skipped the meal.

Some kids don’t like to eat breakfast in the morning, while others simply don’t have the time. If your kid falls into this camp, be sure to read my blog post 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast.

Serve new foods over and over again

Although parents have the best intentions, we can be one of the biggest obstacles to getting our kids to eat healthy.

Introducing new foods requires that we’re consistent—just like any other desirable behavior we’re working on.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.

The earlier you put this into practice the better. In fact, a December 2007 study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that when mothers introduced a vegetable their infants initially disliked, by the 8th day of serving it, their intake of it increased rapidly. By the 8th exposure their intake was similar to that of a vegetable they liked. Nine months later, 63 percent of the infants were still eating the originally disliked vegetable.

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

Despite after-school activities, doctor’s appointments and errands, the good news is that most families do eat dinner—or other meals—together. According to a 2014 study, 88 percent of families say they eat meals together most days or a few days a week.

Although dinner is usually the meal most families eat together, sharing any meal is one of the best ways to teach kids healthy eating habits.

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

Avoid food rewards

It can be tempting to offer your kids a snack or a treat to get them to behave well in a public place or to get through a doctor’s appointment without tears, for example.

But experts say we shouldn’t rely on food rewards.

According to parenting expert Amy McCready, (her book, If I Have To Tell You One More Time, is a must read for any parent):

“Quit rewarding your kids for behavior you should be able to expect.”

And:

“…you’re doing your child no favor by doling out treats for his accomplishments or behavior. Instead, you’re setting him up for a “What’s in it for me?” attitude down the road.”

When you use food as a reward or as punishment, you’re also teaching your kids that food has power. As adults, they may treat themselves to dinner or a piece of cake after a long, stressful day.

Instead of using food as a reward, give your kid a hug, a high five or a sticker.

Cook with your kids

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

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

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

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

Pay attention to portions

In addition to feeding kids healthy food, it’s also important to pay attention to portions.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), portion sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the past 20 years. Suffice to say, it’s one of the reasons we’re dealing with a childhood obesity epidemic.

This is something I struggle with in my home, especially because my kids usually ask for seconds.

Although they’re still young, I try to teach them portion control by using measuring cups for example, and by talking to them about what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

Don’t bribe kids with dessert

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of telling your kids they have to eat their vegetables if they want dessert but experts say this is a habit we should leave behind.

Dina Rose, PhD, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli calls this the “dessert deal.” She says this route teaches kids that vegetables are less desirable than dessert or should only be eaten to get dessert. She suggests re-thinking dessert and offering yogurt, baked fruit or a smoothie instead, for example.

Try to avoid eating on the run

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

Suffice to say, many kids eat snacks in the car or are forced to eat on the run because of busy afternoons or mornings. In fact, according to a survey by Barbara’s, 50 percent of kids who eat on the go or in the car skip breakfast at least once a week.

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

Healthy Eating For Kids: Healthy Food For Kids

Fruits and vegetables

Despite our best efforts, most kids aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. According to a 2014 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

Yet studies show eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, prevent weight gain and childhood obesity, reduce the risk for eye and digestive problems, heart disease and stroke, and prevent certain types of cancer.

Of course, when kids eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables it lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout their lifetimes.

Protein

Protein is important for your kids’ growth and development and meals with protein keep hunger at bay, balance blood sugar and give your kids the energy they need.

Protein should make up 1/4 of your child’s plate but you’ll want to focus on lean, quality protein sources instead of processed foods like deli meats and cheeses or hot dogs. Try chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs and fish.

Plant-based foods

Whether your family is made up of vegetarians, vegans, pegans or full-fledged meat eaters, getting more plant-based foods in your kids’ diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.

Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development. Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation.

Recent studies show plant-based diets are linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity. A January 2015 study in the Journal Of Pediatrics found children who followed a plant-based, vegan diet or the American Heart Association diet lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and improved their cholesterol in just four weeks.

Whole grains

Grains should make up 1/4 of your child’s plate. Whole grains have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber, which are stripped from refined grains.

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

Fish and seafood

Fish can be a hard sell for kids but the nutrients they contain are those kids need for healthy growth and development, according to the AAP.

Fish and seafood are packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain health and memory.

Many types of fish also contain high levels of calcium and vitamin D and some types of shellfish are high in iron, selenium and iodine. Studies suggest consuming seafood may improve neurodevelopment in babies and decrease cardiovascular disease risk.

The FDA and EPA recommend kids eat fish 1 to 2 times a week starting at age 2. Despite its benefits, kids aren’t eating enough fish however, mainly due to concerns over mercury.

Yet salmon, sardines, shrimp and tuna (canned light) are all safe choices.

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

Healthy fats

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

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

While experts agree it’s the trans fats and some saturated fats that should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods are beneficial. However, it’s important to note that the AAP recommends healthy fats make up no more than 30 percent of kids’ total calories.

Foods To Cut Back On Or Eliminate

When it comes to healthy eating for kids, there are foods you should cut back on or eliminate altogether.

Sugary foods, sweetened drinks, chocolate milk and juice

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids 2 and older, they should have less than 25 grams of added sugar a day. 

The good news is that even cutting out small amounts of sugar can make a dramatic difference in your child’s health.

According to a February 2016 study in the journal Obesity, obese children who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but didn’t change the amount of calories they consumed had improvements in their blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL “bad” cholesterol after just 10 days. Researchers also saw significant improvements in their blood glucose and insulin levels.

Juice and sugary drinks are also high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and drinking them can lead to weight gain, cavities and diarrhea.

In September, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of  Pediatric Dentistry jointly issued new healthy kids’ drink guidelines for parents, so be sure to check them out.

Processed foods

Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, saturated fat and artificial ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce. They also lack fiber and the vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets.

Research shows processed foods, but more specifically the sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and food additives they contain, are linked to weight gain and childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and mental health and behavioral problems.

But your child’s health now isn’t all you should be thinking about. Eating foods with added sugars and sodium early on can affect their taste preferences, the foods they eat and their health later on in life.

Experts say the more processed foods you eat—and the longer you eat them—the more likely inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and a host of health conditions will crop up in the future.

In fact, a May 2019 study in the journal Cell Metabolism found adults who consumed ultra-processed foods for 2 weeks consumed 500 extra calories than those who consumed unprocessed foods.

Two other recent studies show that consuming ultra-processed foods are linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and death. 

Foods high in sodium

Approximately 90 percent of kids get too much sodium in their diets each day and more than 40 percent of it comes from only 10 foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which about 3.5 percent of kids already have, according to the AAP. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss, among other health conditions.

So even if your kids don’t have high blood pressure now, if they continue to eat too much sodium, there’s a good chance they will in the future.

Related: 10 Sneaky Sources of Sodium in Your Kid’s Diet

How To Save Money On Food

If you’re like me, one of the biggest line items next to your mortgage and taxes is the grocery store bill.

According to a recent report by the USDA, most families spend between $130 and $300 a week on food. How much you spend depends on a lot of factors including the part of the country you live in, if you live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area, the size of your family and if you buy organic, conventional or both.

Nevertheless, there are ways to save money on food. Some include:

  • Make a list before you go to the grocery store.
  • Shop at big box stores like Target or membership clubs like Costco.
  • Meal plan.
  • Cut down on food waste.
  • Buy foods in bulk.
  • Shop sales and use cash back apps like Ibotta or FetchRewards.
  • Buy cheap, healthy foods.
  • Eat more plant-based meals.
  • Use your store’s loyalty card.
  • Buy generic instead of brand names.

 

What do you think about this complete guide to healthy eating for kids? Are there tips you find helpful? Let me know in the comments.

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should I encourage my kids to eat salad?

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

A ton of nutrition

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

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

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

High in fiber

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

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

Healthy fats

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

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

Kids have a say in what they eat

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

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

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

Puts an end to picky eating

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

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

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

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

Salads make for a quick and easy dinner

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

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

Common obstacles to get your kids to eat salad

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

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

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

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

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

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

Start early and model healthy eating

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

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

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

Serve tiny portions and stay consistent

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.

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

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

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

Get your kids to eat salad by picking the right type

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

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

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

Get your kids to eat salad with the right tools

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

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

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

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

Add yummy ingredients

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

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

Don’t forget salad dressing

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

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

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

Try salad kits

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

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

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

Take your kids grocery shopping

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

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

Stay consistent

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

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

14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids

14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids

As a bona fide foodie and health nut, I’m constantly on the lookout for new food brands and products. Whether it’s a new healthy snack bar or a gluten-free product, companies are constantly jumping on the latest health craze. In recent years, probiotics have definitely become a major focus for food manufacturers. Yet  prebiotics and prebiotic foods for kids seem to be having their own time in the limelight, showing up in baby formula, fruit and vegetable pouches, cereals, baked goods and yogurt. 

In fact, according to a recent report, the prebiotics market is expected to exceed $7.2 billion by the year 2024. Suffice to say, they’re not going anywhere. 

So today, I’m talking about what prebiotics are, what research says about their potential health benefits and safety. Plus, I have a list of prebiotic foods for kids—many of which your kids probably love to eat.

WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?

Think of prebiotics as probiotics’ partner in crime: they’re dietary fibers that feed the healthy bacteria in the gut allowing them to grow and flourish.

Prebiotics are natural, fermentable carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the body and are typically found in high-fiber foods.

Interestingly, prebiotics were defined in 1995 but their definition has evolved through the years. If you’re a science geek, you’ll appreciate how prebiotics are defined today:

nondigestible compound that, through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates the composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus conferring a beneficial physiologic effect on the host

HEALTH BENEFITS OF PREBIOTICS

Although research is limited, studies suggest prebiotics can have a positive effect on gut health, cardiovascular health, mental illness, cancer and obesity.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the journal Gastroenterology suggests prebiotics can help reduce body fat in children who are overweight or obese by altering the microorganisms in the gut.

ARE PREBIOTICS SAFE FOR KIDS?

Since prebiotics is still an emerging area of research, there’s not much information about whether or not they’re safe.

According to an August 2018 study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, of the 384 randomized controlled trials that were analyzed, most failed to record or report data about adverse effects of either probiotics or prebiotics. As a result, it’s not possible at this time to conclude whether they’re safe or not, according to the authors.

With the lack of evidence, I suggest you talk to your child’s pediatrician first before feeding your kids processed foods that have prebiotics added to them.

PREBIOTIC FOODS FOR KIDS

The good news is that prebiotics are naturally found in a variety of whole foods your kids probably already eat, or can grow to love.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is one of the best prebiotic foods for kids and it’s usually a green leafy vegetable they like to eat.

Asparagus is an excellent source of fiber and protein, vitamins A, C, and E, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Steam asparagus, or drizzle olive oil on top and roast it. Add asparagus to stir-fry meals or pasta dishes, or fold it into eggs for breakfast.

2. Onions

Onions can be a tough sell for kids but if you add small amounts to your meals, they may grow to love them.

Slice raw onions thin and add them to salads, tacos and spring rolls. Add cooked onions to omelets, soups, stews and chilis, or a vegetable stir-fry. Roast onions with squash and sweet potatoes or add them to your favorite sheet pan meal.

3. Bananas

Bananas are one of the best prebiotic foods for kids, not to mention they’re sweet and delicious. A great source of potassium and vitamin B6, bananas are also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

I use bananas in green smoothies and add them to overnight oats, oatmeal, breads, muffins, and no-bake energy bites for my kids.

I usually buy two bunches every week so if some start to over-ripen, I pop them in the freezer to use later for a dairy-free ice cream.

4. Garlic

My kids despise garlic, but I still continue to cook a lot with it. Research shows repeated exposure is the key to getting kids to try and accept new foods, so I’ll keep on trying!

I sauté or roast garlic with vegetables and add garlic to lentil chili. My husband also uses garlic to make pesto sauce in the Vitamix

5. Apples

Sweet, crunchy and delicious, apples are also one of the best prebiotic foods for kids.

With more than 4 grams of fiber in one medium apple, they’re also a great source of vitamin C, and have quercetin, an antioxidant that may improve cognitive function, a March 2017 mice study in the journal Behavioral Brain Research suggests.

6. Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Serve them raw in a chopped salad, incorporate them into egg, pasta or rice dishes, or sauté them with garlic for a delicious side dish.

7. Leeks

Think of leeks as you would onions, garlic and or any other aromatic. Leeks can be steamed, sautéed, or roasted and are delicious with chicken, in a frittata or quiche, mixed with rice and pureed into soup. My kids love leeks, especially sautéed and paired with catfish.

8. Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes as they’re often called, aren’t really artichokes at all. They’re tubers that originate from a plant that looks like a sunflower. Nutty and crunchy,  you can roast them, puree them into a soup, or make Jersusalem artichoke chips.

9. Barley

When you think of barley, beef barley soup probably comes to mind, but there are so many other ways to use this prebiotic-rich food. 

Swap oatmeal for barley, make a grain salad or risotto, add it to other creamy soups, or use it in place of rice or quinoa in veggie or bean burgers. 

10. Oats

I’m a big fan of oats because they’re high in fiber, a good source of iron, selenium and manganese, and they’re low in sugar. Oats are also really versatile: use them to make oatmeal, overnight oats, energy balls, cookies, breads, pancakes and muffins.

11. Chocolate and Cocoa

Studies show chocolate and cocoa are great sources of prebiotics. To get the most benefit, stick with a piece of dark chocolate and avoid desserts made with milk chocolate for example, which are filled with added sugars.

12. Wheat bran

Wheat bran, the outer shell of the wheat kernel, is an excellent source of many nutrients including protein and fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.

With a sweet and nutty flavor, you can use wheat bran in breads, muffins, and pancakes.

13. Seaweed

Seaweed is definitely not a food you probably feed your kids regularly, but it’s high in antioxidants, a good source of calcium, iodine, folate and magnesium and prebiotics. There are many types of seaweed but the easiest way to feed it to your kids is with miso soup or dried seaweed snacks.

14. Flaxseeds

High in protein and fiber, a good source of magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are also one of the best prebiotic foods for kids. Add flaxseeds (whole or ground) to oatmeal, overnight oats, granola and smoothies, or sprinkle on top of salads or yogurt for an extra crunch. You can also use flaxseeds to make a flax egg, as a substitute in baking recipes.

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.

 

10 Halloween Party Food Recipes

10 Halloween Party Food Recipes

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

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

Related: 6 Ways To Get Rid of Leftover Halloween Candy

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

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

Serve Healthy Halloween Party Food Before Trick-or-Treating

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

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

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

Halloween Appetizers For a Crowd

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

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

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

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

Simple Halloween Party Snacks

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

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

Meatballs.

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

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

Halloween Party Food Recipes: Desserts

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

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

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

Halloween party food for kids with food allergies

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

Plan ahead for Halloween party food at school

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

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

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

Sort and check Halloween candy at home

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

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

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

Look for the food allergy pumpkin

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

Peanut free Halloween snacks for school

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

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

     

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

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

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

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

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

What is fatty liver disease?

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

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

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

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

Types of fatty liver disease

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

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

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

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

Causes of fatty liver disease in kids

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

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

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

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

 

Fatty liver disease symptoms

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

Fatty liver test

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

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

Fatty liver disease treatment

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

Fatty liver diet

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

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

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

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

Get moving

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

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

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


Teach healthy habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Childhood Obesity: Are Parents To Blame?


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: 18.5 percent of kids are obese

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

According to the report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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