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

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

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

Whether your family are vegetarians, vegans, pegans or full-fledged meat eaters, getting more plant-based foods into your kid’s 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 also linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.

When you have picky eaters however, getting them to eat more vegetables, plant-based proteins and different types of grains can seem impossible.

With a few tips and tricks however, you can add more plant-based foods to your kid’s diet. Here are 10.

1. Start small

If your kids already don’t love beans, you’re probably not going to get them to eat black-bean soup, no matter how different it may look.   

Instead, start out by introducing small—even minuscule—amounts like a teaspoon of peas they can munch on before dinner when they’re most likely to be hungry.


2. Blend it up


Every morning, I make this really easy smoothie for my kids and I in my Vitamix: one cup of almond milk, 2 cups of spinach, 2 stalks of celery, one banana, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.

I like green smoothies for kids, not as a way to sneak vegetables, but to get a bunch of vegetables and other plant-based foods into one meal.

Making smoothies with your kids is also a great way to teach them about healthy eating. When kids pick what goes into smoothies and have a hand in making it, they feel empowered and excited to try what they made.

3. Take advantage of snack time


Kids love their snacks but most kids snack up to three times a day on foods like chips, cookies and other junk food, which nets a whopping 600 calories, a March 2010 study in the journal Health Affairs found.

If snack time is when your kid is hungry and most likely to eat, use it as an opportunity to get more plant-based foods into his diet.

Serve cut veggies with a bean dip or hummus, fruit with a nut butter, chia seed pudding, a muffin with almond flour and flaxseeds, or homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and raisins.

4. Put fruits and vegetables in plain sight


Kids will eat what’s visible and accessible so keep healthy options front and center.

Keep a fruit bowl filled with easy options like bananas, apples and pears.

Also, when you get home from the grocery store, wash and cut up fruits and veggie and store them in glass containers in the refrigerator. Most grocery stores also have grab and go containers of fruits and vegetables that are already washed and cut up, making healthy eating a no-brainer.

5. Serve frozen fruit for dessert

Frozen fruit is a great way to get more plant-based foods into your kid’s diet and it may pack more nutrition than fresh. In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Serve frozen fruit straight out of the package for snack time or add it to smoothies, yogurt parfaits or overnight oats. You can also blend it up with some almond or coconut milk for a delicious dessert.


6. Re-think recipes


When you do your meal planning, think about ways to swap meat for plant-based foods. Try zoodles, bean burgers, veggie burgers, black bean soup, vegetarian chili, or an egg “fried” rice with edamame.

7. Try new whole-grains


Most kids will eat pasta and rice but those with whole grains are the best. Whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Some whole grains like quinoa, (a seed), provides both protein and fiber.

Make meals interesting by switching up the grains you serve. Instead of brown rice, experiment with new types like farro, teff and millet.


8. Make “fries” and “chips”


There are so many ways to transform plant-based foods into foods kids already love like fries and chips.
Carrots can be sliced thin and roasted in the oven. Check out this recipe for carrot chips on Weelicious.

Or try kale chips, jicama and parsnip “fries,” or roasted chickpeas.


9. Make a vegetable hash

Kids may not eat leftover vegetables for breakfast but if they like hash browns, try substituting grated veggies like squash, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes or parsnips into a hash and serve them with eggs.

10. Think finger foods

Kids love finger foods and when you serve plant-based foods, there are plenty of options.

Offer small pieces of fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, edamame, small cubes of tofu or tempeh, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

When I tell people that my kids devour salads, love lentils, and ask for anchovies, they’re shocked.

During the holidays, at family parties and get-togethers with friends, when other parents are worrying what their kids will eat—and if they’ll eat—my husband and I never give it a second thought.

Our kids not only eat just like we do, but they’re little foodies who crave healthy food.

What may surprise you is that we don’t bribe them with dessert, negotiate meals or force them to eat.

They’re not easygoing kids who go with the flow either—it’s actually quite the contrary.

While it’s true that most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters, and they have their own food preferences and food aversions, it’s totally possible to raise kids who like to eat healthy.

Here’s how we did it and you can too.

Make homemade baby food

It’s rare that we ask my daughters if they want to try new foods. Rather, they have a natural curiosity and interest in doing so.

One of the reasons I think that’s the case is because I made homemade baby food for them.

Although store-bought baby food is easy and convenient especially when you’re on the go, we can’t expect our kids to prefer real food if we start out by feeding them food that looks and  smells anything but.

When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients and can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures which helps kids develop their own preference for healthy foods. 

Stick with it

Parents often tell me how they’ve tried cooking with their kids, serving new vegetables, or making green smoothies, but nothing they did changed their kids’ picky eating habits.

Although there were definitely occasions where we’d offer a new food and my kids were willing to try it immediately, getting them to eat everything took a concerted effort at every meal, every day.

As parents, we always want a quick, easy fix, but a one-time effort isn’t going to transform your kids into foodies overnight.

Whether it’s potty training, getting your kids to sleep through the night or changing an annoying behavior, everything takes time, effort and consistency.

Keep meals interesting

I’ve found that eating the same foods every day has been key for me to lose the baby weight and maintain it.

Although this also makes meal planning easier for my family, I often fell into the same pattern with my kids and I realized there were so many more foods they could try.

So I decided to switch it up a bit.

When I’d bring my kids to the grocery store and they’d spot dragon fruit, star fruit or something they had never tried before, I’d buy it for us all to enjoy at home.

My husband, who also sensed our food rut, would cook new types of fish and vegetables and add new types of spices to our meals.

Although we never forced our kids to eat, we always encouraged them to have a taste of what was being served so they’d have opportunities to figure out which foods they liked and which ones they didn’t.

Cook meals together

Cooking with my kids has proven to be one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy.

Kids want to be just like their parents and my daughters were always excited to learn how to peel and chop produce, mix ingredients, stir on the stovetop and use the oven.

When kids help to prepare meals, they feel empowered and proud and are more likely to eat what’s being served.

Forget the kids’ table

When we had dinner with our extended family, were invited to a friend’s house, or attended a party or celebration, my kids always ate with the adults, unless of course, the host had a kids’ table set up for them.

I never brought a separate meal for them and we didn’t ask the host to prepare something different. They could eat what was served—or not—but that was the only option.

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

Most kids’ menus at restaurants are all the same: hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers and fries.

It’s rare that you’ll find salads, green leafy vegetables or roasted salmon, for example.

When we went out to eat, we’d usually order an entree my daughters could split, modify an item such as adding broccoli to pizza, or order appetizers and salads we all could share.

4 Reasons Your Kid Is Always Hungry

4 Reasons Your Kid Is Always Hungry

My daughters love to eat and almost alway ask for seconds or something extra, like a piece of fruit after dinner.

Since obesity, high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes and heart disease all run on both sides of the family, and because I’m also an emotional eater, I often worry that they eat too much.

At the same time, I’m very careful about what I say to my kids about food and try not to make it an issue.

Most kids like to snack but if they’re not torching major calories on the field, you might be wondering why your kid is always hungry or asks for something to eat after he ate just an hour ago.

It’s always a good idea to check in with your kid’s pediatrician since an increase in appetite can be a sign of type-2 diabetes, digestive conditions and thyroid dysfunction, to name a few.

If everything is normal however, here are some possible reasons your kid is always hungry.

1. A lack of nutrient-dense foods

My daughter often complains that her school lunch—usually lentils, veggies and a piece of fruit—isn’t enough. 

She wants more choices like the other kids have, but I try to explain that the foods they’re eating, things like white bread, “veggie” sticks and “fruit” gummies aren’t nutritious or filling.

Most of the kid-friendly foods like granola bars, pretzels, and fish-shaped crackers are made with refined carbohydrates that kids burn through quickly and don’t have the fiber and protein kids need to feel satiated.

At each meal, aim for whole foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, clean sources of protein and healthy fats.

Healthy snacks should be made up of both protein and fiber, like celery and hummus or an apple with almond butter.

2. Dehydration and thirst

According to an August 2015 study in The American Journal of Public Health, more than 50 percent of children and teens don’t drink enough water each day.

If kids aren’t hydrated, it can also affect their mood, brain function and athletic performance, and lead to headaches, dizziness and constipation.

Since being dehydrated can often be mistaken for hunger, it’s always a good idea to offer water before offering a snack.

Encourage your kids to drink water first thing in the morning too, when they’re most likely to be dehydrated, and sip throughout the day.

Drinking water before a meal can also prevent them from overeating or asking for something to eat.

Stick with water instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor.

Young kids in particular, usually have to be reminded to drink up and sometimes a new sippy cup or water bottle is the key to get them to drink up.

3. Growth spurts

When it seems like your kid is always hungry no matter how healthy the food is or how often he eats, he may be having a growth spurt.

According to KidsHealth.org, kids grow about 2 1/2 inches per year until they become teenagers. Growth spurts also happen between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.

Interestingly, they grow more during the spring time than at any other time of year.

Instead of processed, packaged foods, support your kid’s growth with nutrient-dense, whole foods as much as possible.

4. Boredom

On the weekends or on snow days when there’s no school, your kids will probably ask, “can I have a snack,” several times a day.

When my kids ask for snacks just a few hours after eating lunch, it’s usually because they’re bored. 

I try to explain that eating isn’t an activity and food is fuel.

Another ongoing conversation we have is about recognizing their hunger cues. I explain that when you’re hungry, your stomach growls and we eat to not feel hungry, instead of eating until we feel full. 

Having a schedule of meals and snacks with some flexibility throughout the day can help ensure your kid is actually hungry and eating enough each time.

If your kid still asks for a snack but you think he’s actually bored, telling him to wait until the next meal or snack time time teaches him that it’s ok to be hungry—a lesson even adults need.

Is your kid hungry all the time? What strategies have worked for you? Leave me a comment.

[VIDEO] 6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

[VIDEO] 6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

All parents want their kids to eat healthy, but when it comes to actually making it happen, most are left feeling frustrated, stressed out and exhausted.

Perhaps you’ve tried to make vegetables into fun shapes or works of art.

Or you’ve pureed and snuck them into meals.

I bet you’ve also begged, bribed and negotiated with your kids but all of your efforts fell flat.

Although it can be really frustrating to get your kids to even take a bite, it actually doesn’t have to be.

Here are 6 crazy easy ways to get your kids to eat healthy.

Short on time? Watch my video where I give you my 3 top tips.

 

1. Start early


If you have an infant, making homemade baby food and exposing him to a wide variety of flavors and textures is an almost sure-fire way to get him to enjoy eating healthy now and throughout his life.

In fact, studies show that children like and consume foods that are familiar to them and the earlier and more foods they’re exposed to, the healthier their diets will be.

I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons my kids eat foods like lentils and broccoli today because I served them up regularly from the moment they started solids.

2. Give kids choices


Whether it’s a toy, a favorite pair of shoes, or which apps they’re allowed to use, kids love choices and food is no different.

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 at meals that makes them such a big power struggle with our kids.

While I’m not suggesting you let your kid decide what he’ll eat for dinner, you can give him plenty of opportunities to make choices you both can live with.

For example, offer broccoli and cabbage and let him pick one or both. Or put out a few types of vegetables for him to choose from and do a make your own pasta or taco night.

3. Go shopping together

Another way to give kids choices is to bring them to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new vegetable they’d like to try.

When you come back home, wash, prepare and cook it together.

They’ll be more like to eat (or at least try) what’s being served because they had a say and a hand in making it.

4. Get cool gear

Teaching your kids how to cook is an easy way to get your kids to eat healthy.

According to a November 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, kids who cooked at home or took cooking classes consumed more fiber-rich foods and fruits and vegetables, were more willing to try new foods, and had an increased confidence in their ability to prepare meals.

What’s more, a May 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior  found young adults who had cooking skills and felt confident in the kitchen were more likely to be healthy eaters. 

One of the best ways to make cooking with your kids fun is to get some cool gear.

Whether it’s a kid’s personalized apron, a chopping board and safe, kid-friendly knives, or a cool chef’s set, your kids will get excited about cooking.

5. Make smoothies or juices


I don’t advocate for hiding vegetables in meals, but making green smoothies or juices is a great way to get several servings of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet and because they’re green, it’s a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat healthy.

Even better—let your kid choose the types of green vegetables and fruits and let them help you blend it up.

6. Keep it small

When you were a kid, how likely were you to sit down to an entire plate of asparagus—or worse—Brussels sprouts and eagerly eat it up?

I didn’t think so.

Although it’s true that kids don’t eat enough vegetables, it’s unrealistic to expect kids, especially toddlers, to eat an entire portion of a new food, or a food they’ve previously shunned.

Kids need to have the freedom to smell, taste and explore foods without feeling pressured so serve a teaspoon of broccoli florets or a few baby carrots, for example.

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

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

When it comes to cooking healthy, homemade meals, most people aren’t on board.

They either don’t like to cook, or think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth the effort especially after factoring in work, kids’ after-school activities and sports, and everything else that has to get done each day.

In fact, according to data collected by Eddie Yoon, a researcher and consultant for the consumer packaged goods industry, a whopping 45 percent of people hate to cook and 35 are lukewarm about it.

Our dislike for cooking however, is surprising considered the surge in meal kit subscriptions, food delivery apps, restaurants who offer on-the-go ordering, the popularity of cooking shows and Tasty-style videos and the rise of cookbook sales in 2018.

Despite our near-obsession with food and cooking, Americans still spend more money eating out than they do on groceries.

Dining out and ordering in may be quicker, easier, and tastier, but the reality is that doing so is slowly killing our kids.

Not only are we facing a childhood obesity epidemic and more kids than ever are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, but studies show our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than older generations.

Fat or skinny however, all kids are at risk.

According to a May 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics, 37 percent of kids who have a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar.

One of the reasons kids are sicker than ever is because they’re not given enough opportunities to learn how to cook and actually see what a healthy meal looks like.

The truth is that cooking can save your kid’s life. Here are 6 reasons why. 

Short on time? Check out my video.

1. Cooking makes kids healthier—physically and mentally

Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall.

In fact, according to a February 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, kids who share family meals together have higher fitness levels, drink less sugary soft drinks, and seem to have better social skills.

Studies also show that kids who eat with their families are less likely to have an eating disorder or become obese and family meals are linked to lower rates of depression, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, better grades and higher levels of self-esteem.

Conversations had around the table may even improve a child’s vocabulary and help them become more resilient.

2. Cooking puts an end to picky eating

If your kid is a picky eater, eating out may seem like an easy solution especially if the restaurant you’re dining in has a kid’s menu.

But feeding kids what they want instead of what they need only reinforces the picky eating pattern.

We tell ourselves (and others), “my kid will only eat X,Y, and Z,” or “there’s no way my kid will eat that,” and that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Dinner may not always be peaceful but when your kids eat a homemade meal and there are no other options, it’s one of the best ways to get them out of their picky eating behaviors.

The more opportunities kids have to enjoy healthy meals and the only choice is what’s being served, they’re more likely to at least try it.

3. Cooking shows kids what real food looks like

Instead of eating out where French fries is the side dish, meals aren’t served with vegetables and everything is smothered in cheese or a sauce, cooking at home gives kids plenty of opportunities to learn what real, fresh food and healthy, balanced meals actually look like.

Cooking means meals are healthier and portions are smaller

A December 2016 study in Nutrition Today found most items on kid’s menus at the top 200 restaurant chains in the U.S. contained 147 more calories than what experts recommend.

When you eat out with your kids, you could avoid the kids menu and instead order a salad and a healthy appetizer, for example.

But since most restaurant meals are 2 to 3 times larger than what they should be, chances are the portions will still be too large. What’s more, most restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium and unhealthy fats. 

Cooking at home lets you control the ingredients, the cooking method and the portion sizes.

4. Cooking strengthens family bonds

Life gets hectic when you have kids and families don’t spend nearly as much time as they’d like.

In fact, a March 2018 study commissioned by Visit Anaheim found Americans spend just 37 minutes of “quality” time together during the week.

The more time you spend together around the dinner table, the more opportunities there are to share stories, resolve conflict, share positive moments from your day and strengthen family bonds.

5. Cooking prepares kids for real life

You may not like to cook, but cooking is a life skill your kids will need, just like doing laundry and cleaning a home.

Sure, you can hire someone to do just about any errand or chore, but if you want to raise kids who are self-sufficient and not lean on mom or dad for everything, teaching them how to cook is key.

Teaching kids basic cooking skills like how to measure ingredients, chop vegetables, use appliances and follow a recipe, are skills that will carry them through life and ensure they’ll put their health first.

6. Cooking keeps kids with food allergies safe

If you have a child with food allergies, you know that going out to eat—or eating anywhere other than your home—is seriously nerve-wracking.

Although you’ll tell your server about your kid’s food allergies, ask the kitchen to use a clean pan and urge them to avoid cross contamination, anything can happen and unfortunately, you can’t put the onus on the restaurant.

When you cook at home, you don’t have to worry about food allergies, and you know your kid will be safe.

8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

The new year always comes with the best intentions: eat healthier, work out more, get more sleep and cut down on all that stress.

When it comes to your kid’ health, perhaps you’ve made a commitment to stock your kitchen with healthy food, cook more and share more family meals together.

Those are all great New Year’s resolutions to have of course, but so often we find ourselves back to our old habits come February.

Between work, after-school activities and every other obligation you have, carving out time to plan, shop and cook gets really challenging.

With some healthy eating hacks and a few supermarket shortcut foods on hand however, you don’t have to rely on processed foods, ready-made meals and grab-and-go options to make sure your family stays on track.

Here are 8 supermarket shortcuts that will make healthy eating a breeze all year long.

1. Salad kits

My family has become hooked on a salad kit made with shaved Brussels sprouts, shredded cabbage, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. Not only is it healthy and delicious, but having a salad kit on hand helps us pull together dinner in minutes flat.

When choosing a salad kit, always read labels since many salad kits are high in calories, sodium and sugar and use low-nutrient greens like iceberg lettuce instead of dark leafy greens.

2. Spinach

High in iron, spinach is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins A,C,E, B6, folate, magnesium and calcium.

Pre-washed baby spinach (organic when possible), cooks super-fast and can be incorporated into almost meal you’re making.

Sauté spinach with olive oil and garlic, add it to soups, stews and stir-fries or incorporate it into a quiche or frittata. Raw spinach can be mixed with other salad greens or used for your morning smoothies or green juices.

3. Frozen fruits and vegetables

Since frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen, they may be healthier than fresh varieties. In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Stocking your freezer with a variety of frozen options will help you pull together meals in no time. Add frozen veggies to pastas, omelettes, or a stir-fry and incorporate frozen fruit into smoothies and yogurt or serve it as dessert.

4. Beans

Beans are one of the healthiest foods for kids and make for a quick and easy meal.

Add canned beans to tacos, fajitas, soups and stews, serve them solo in your kid’s lunch box, or puree them into a healthy and delicious bean dip.

5. Tempeh

If you’re looking to add more plant-based protein sources into your meals, try tempeh.

With more than 5 grams of protein in every ounce, tempeh is also high in fiber and magnesium.

Since it’s made with fermented soybeans, tempeh is also a great way to get probiotics into your kid’s diet.

Marinate tempeh and bake it, slice it thin and sauté it with vegetables, or swap crumbled tempeh for meat in your favorite Mexican dishes.

6. Canned fish

One of the best supermarket shortcuts to help your family eat healthy is canned fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies.

Packed with protein, low in saturated fat and rich in micronutrients, fish is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain health and memory.

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

If your kids refuse to eat fish however, try non-sneaky ways to incorporate small portions into their meals. For example, serve canned salmon as a dip paired with cut up raw vegetables, top toasted whole-grain bread with a bit of anchovies, or add a few sardines to pasta dishes.

7. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are high in calcium: one cup of provides 97 milligrams.

Purchase edamame frozen or fully cooked and add it to rice dishes, soups and salads or serve it as a side dish. You can also serve edamame as an appetizer before dinner when kids are hungry and more likely to try new foods.

8. Quinoa

Quinoa, a seed, is high in both protein and fiber as well as B vitamins, which support the nervous system.

Quinoa is also a quick and easy grain that can be served for breakfast with fruit and cinnamon, mixed into a yogurt parfait or as a side dish for lunch or dinner.

10 Healthy Eating Hacks For 2019

10 Healthy Eating Hacks For 2019

Whether your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, get in shape—or nothing at all, the month of January is a great time of year to set new, healthy goals for your family.

Perhaps you want to encourage your kids to eat healthier, try new foods or leave behind their picky eating behaviors for good.

Just as other New Year’s resolutions don’t happen overnight, getting your family to eat healthy requires consistency, patience and simple, yet realistic, strategies to make it happen.

Here are 10 healthy eating hacks for the new year that will make it doable.

1. Make a list

Without a grocery list, it’s easy to be tempted by processed foods and convenience foods that can easily derail you. You may also end up buying too much food that goes to waste or find yourself resorting to unhealthy takeout when your refrigerator becomes empty mid-week.

Before you head to the grocery store, try to have a rough meal plan for the week and make a list of the foods and ingredients you’ll need.

You don’t have to plan out each meal perfectly, but as long as you have a general idea of what you’re going to make for dinner each night, and what you need to stock up on for all of your other meals, you’ll have plenty of options.

2. Prep ahead

If you can carve out an hour or two on the weekends to wash, prep and store your aromatics and fruits and vegetables, it will save you a ton of time during the week.

3. Take shortcuts

Buying pre-chopped ingredients may cost a bit more, but if doing so means you’re able to make healthy meals faster, then it’s totally worth it.

Most grocery stores have pre-chopped mirepoix, garlic, cauliflower “rice,” spiraled vegetables, and shredded Brussels sprouts that can shave off a ton of time making healthy meals.

4. Batch cook

I work full-time, write this blog and have two kids but I still manage to get dinner on the table (almost) every night.

I’m not a super-mom by any stretch of the imagination or a pro chef, but with bath cooking, I’m able to pull it off.

On Sunday and a few times throughout the week, I make large batches of vegetables, rice, quinoa, lentils, beans and hard-boiled eggs that can be used for healthy school lunches and dinners throughout the week.

5. Use an appliance

Cooking healthy meals can be time consuming especially if you have to chop vegetables or wait for rice to cook, for example. Luckily, there are so many appliances like the Vitamix, Instant Pot and slow-cooker to make it quick and easy.

6. Make sheet pan meals

When you’re rushing to get dinner on the table, you need fast, fuss-free meals.

Instead of using multiple pots and pans and making meals that require multiple cooking methods, make sheet pan meals. Choose your vegetables, add a protein, and roast everything together to cut down on cooking and clean-up time.

7. Assemble meals

Don’t like to cook? No problem. You don’t have to use a single appliance to pull together healthy meals.

Instead, assemble pre-washed bagged salad or try a salad kit and add a protein and healthy fat for a quick, easy and no-brainer meal.

8. Rely on frozen foods

Many types of frozen, microwave meals are high in calories, sodium and trans fat and low in fiber and overall nutrition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your freezer to get a healthy dinner on the table.

Make large batches of stews, soups, bean burgers and casseroles or double a recipe that can be frozen and reheated.

Also, stock your freezer with quick and easy options like frozen shrimp, vegetables and peas that can be used in several different meals. Frozen fruit can also be used in smoothies, added to yogurt or served as dessert.

9. Stock your pantry with canned food

When you’re short on time, canned food can be a great alternative to fresh.

Canned salmon, tuna, sardines and beans are all healthy, easy and versatile protein sources that can be paired with a salad or cooked vegetables.

10. Rethink dessert

Bribing kids with dessert to eat dinner or take a few bites of their vegetables may be effective, but it puts a sour taste in their mouths—so to speak.

When kids are told they’ll get dessert if they eat the healthy stuff, a tactic Dina Rose, PhD calls the dessert deal, it teaches them that dessert is more desirable than their meal.

A workaround is to let your kids have dessert but consider offering dessert choices that you can live with. In our family, dessert is usually fresh fruit but it can also be dried fruit, yogurt, or a homemade muffin, for example.

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Make Kids Happy

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Make Kids Happy

You already know that feeding your kids healthy foods is important for their growth and development and overall health and wellness, but can healthy eating make kids happy too?

There’s no doubt that food is medicine and raising kids to eat healthy can prevent childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes and a long list of chronic health conditions plaguing our nation.

When it comes to mental health and conditions like anxiety, depression and ADHD, many doctors are quick to prescribe a pill.

Medications may be necessary and can be life-saving for kids, but research shows a child’s diet can also make a big difference when it comes to mood, mental health and happiness.

Here, read on for some of the reasons why healthy eating makes kids happy.

1. Healthy eating supports gut health and the brain

When we hear the term microbiome, we often think gut health, but the microbiome is actually a vast ecosystem made up of 100 trillion microorganisms, or microbes, that live in and on our bodies.

These microbes are made up mostly of bacteria but they can also include fungi, viruses and other types of tiny organisms.

The gut microbiome specifically, has received a lot of attention in recent years because researchers have made important discoveries about its link to the brain.

In fact, the gut is often called the second brain because of the strong pathways along the gut-brain axis.

The enteric nervous system, which directs the function of the GI system, has 30 types of neurotransmitters and 100 million neurons.

So although we often think the brain is entirely responsible for mental health and mood, experts say the gut has a lot to do with it too.

Suffice to say, optimizing the gut with foods, especially those rich in probiotics, can help the brain.

2. Healthy eating improves sleep

Although most parents agree that sleep is important for their child’s health and well-being and performance in school, most kids fall short, a 2014 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found.

Curbing the electronics, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and leading by example are all key, but experts say gut health also has a lot to do with the quality of sleep, which can affect a child’s mood.  

As previously mentioned, a ton of neurotransmitters are found in the gut, including serotonin—about 95 percent worth!

Often dubbed the happy chemical, serotonin is also a building block for melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. What’s more, there is 400 times the amount of melatonin in the gut than there is in the brain.

3. Healthy eating can prevent depression

The increase in children with anxiety and depression in the U.S. is alarming.

According to a June 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, between 2007 and 2012 the amount of children between ages 6 and 7 with anxiety increased by 20 percent while those with depression increased by 0.2 percent.

There are a lot of factors that play into a person’s propensity to develop anxiety and depression like genetics and family history, trauma and environment but diet also plays a role.

According to a large cohort study published in October 2013 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, kids exposed in utero and during early childhood to junk food and those who lacked healthy foods were at an increased risk for developing anxiety and depression while they were still young.

Experts say healthy eating however, can help ward off these conditions.

Take the SMILES trial published in January 2017. It’s important to note that the study was conducted in adults, so it’s unclear if the same results could be replicated in kids.

Still, the study found that 30 percent of people with depression who followed a Mediterranean diet for 12 weeks reversed their depression, compared to only 8 percent of those in the control group who didn’t change their diet and only received social support.

4. Healthy eating is linked to better self-esteem

 

A December 2017 study in the journal BMC Public Health found healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as bullying, in kids between ages 2 and 9.

Interestingly, kids had the same boost in self-esteem whether or not they were overweight.

On the flip side, when kids have strong self-esteem, they’re also likely to make healthy food choices, the same study found.

5. Healthy eating can help kids with ADHD

 

Approximately 11 percent of kids between ages 4 and 17 are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While experts say foods can’t cause ADHD, processed foods, artificial food dyes and sugar may worsen symptoms.

It also seems that eating a whole foods diet can help to support the health of a child with ADHD. In fact, a February 2011 study in The Lancet found 78 percent of children who followed a “restricted elimination diet,” which consisted of real, whole, unprocessed foods, experienced an improvement in their symptoms.

Have you found eliminating certain foods and changing your child’s diet improved his mood? Let me know in the comments.

 

6 Natural Remedies To Ease Kids’ Tummy Aches

6 Natural Remedies To Ease Kids’ Tummy Aches

When my daughter complains that she has a stomachache, the first words out of my mouth are always, “are you going to vomit?!”

I know no one likes dealing with a kid who is vomiting, but when I see someone else getting sick, I start gagging myself.

Most of the time however, her stomach hurts because she ate a bag of chips, too many sweets or even went overboard on fruit, despite my best efforts to teach her about portion control.

Tummy aches are a surprisingly common complaint for kids. According to a May 2016 study in the journal American Family Physician, about 9 percent of kids’ doctor visits are due to stomachaches.

Most of the time, they’re mild and short-lived but if your kid has tummy aches that seem severe or persist, checking in with your pediatrician is always a good idea.

An infection, food allergies or an intolerance, constipation, fatigue and even stress can cause tummy aches.

When it’s your run of the mill tummy ache however, there are some natural remedies that can help ease your kid’s discomfort.

1. Chamomile tea

 

My go-to remedy when my kids have tummy aches is a cup of decaffeinated chamomile tea, which is a well-known remedy for upset stomach.

Chamomile leaves are high in flavonoids, a type of plant pigment that is thought to be responsible for chamomile’s healing properties. Research suggests chamomile may reduce inflammation and help the muscles relax.

Infants and young children however, should never consume chamomile tea, because (like honey), it may be contaminated with botulism spores.

2. Ginger

 

Ginger is another ancient remedy for tummy aches, nausea, and for pregnant women, morning sickness.

Studies suggest ginger’s effectiveness is due to its antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. The oily resin from the roots of ginger contain bioactive compounds that are believed to help ease gastrointestinal (GI) distress.

If you decide to try ginger, ginger ale won’t cut it because it’s not made with real ginger root and is mostly sugar and high fructose corn syrup anyway.

Instead, try ginger tea, ginger beer (it’s non-alcoholic), or freshly grated ginger in a cup of warm water.

3. Heating pad

 

A heating pad (set on low) for about 20 minutes often does the trick when my kids have tummy aches. It helps relax the muscles in the abdomen and it can be soothing while your child is resting.

4. Peppermint

 

Peppermint, an herb which is a cross between water mint and spearmint, has been well researched and shown to be an effective remedy for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to a July 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.

Less is known about peppermint’s effectiveness for indigestion or nausea but it’s still worth a try.

Peppermint tea seems to be safe for kids, but be sure to read warning labels.

Peppermint essential oil in a diffuser may be OK, but the oils should never be applied to an infant or child’s face or chest because serious side effects can occur if they inhale it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

5. Produce and fiber-rich foods

 

If your child has a tummy ache because he’s constipated, a green vegetable smoothie, a few prunes or a small amount of prune juice may do the trick.

If constipation is a persistent problem, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical condition.

Of course, taking a closer look at his diet is important too.

Avoid fast foods, processed foods and greasy foods and prioritize fruits and vegetables and other fiber-rich foods that can ease and prevent constipation.

6. Drink up

 

Sometimes drinking water is enough to get things moving and ease a tummy ache.

If you have a tough time getting your child to drink plain water, add slices of cucumber or strawberries, which will add a hint of flavor.

6 Tips To Manage Your Kid’s Food Allergies During The Holidays

6 Tips To Manage Your Kid’s Food Allergies During The Holidays

When you have a child with food allergies like I do, keeping them safe during holiday parties and family get-togethers can be challenging.

Between new types of foods, homemade dishes with secret ingredients and all those Christmas cookies, you’ll be laser-focused on what your kid can eat and what he must avoid.

Although managing your child’s food allergies can definitely be nerve-wracking, with some planning and a few simple strategies you can enjoy the holidays and keep your kid safe.

Here are 6 tips that will help.

1. Talk to the host

If you’ll be attending an event at someone else’s home, call the host and let them know about your child’s food allergies and what can happen if they accidentally ingest an allergen.

When you have a child with food allergies, the reality is that you are his biggest advocate.

Unless the host of the party has a child with food allergies, it’s unlikely that they’ll read food labels or even know how to read a label.

What’s more, most people don’t understand how serious an accidental exposure can be and may say a meal is safe, when it really isn’t.

While some hosts may go out of their way to check labels and read every ingredient they used, it’s always a good idea to ask what foods will be served so you’ll know what your kid will have to avoid.

2. Bring a safe dish and dessert

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe and make sure they’ll have something to eat is to bring a safe dish and a dessert that they and everyone else can enjoy, including guests who may have other dietary restrictions.

3. Supervise your kids

It goes without saying that if your kid is young, you must ask about the ingredients in every dish and choose foods carefully.

But since family and friends may give your kid something to eat without asking, it’s important to also watch your kids throughout the event too.

4. Talk with your kids

When kids are old enough to understand what it means to have food allergies, it’s important to talk to them about how to stay safe but without scaring them.

Make sure they know not to eat a food without asking you first and not to share foods with other kids who may also have food allergies.

5. Ask guests to bring a non-food item

When my daughter was 3-years-old, we attended a party at a neighbor’s house and while we were chatting, she tasted a dip that had nuts in it. Luckily, she only had hives and we gave her a dose of Benadryl, but it was a big wake up call to watch her more carefully.

If you’ll be hosting and grandma insists on bringing her famous cookies, there may not be much you can do. But if guests ask what they can bring, have a list of alternatives like a bottle of wine, another beverage, or festive napkins.

6. Plan non-food traditions

During the holidays, food is a big part of the festivities. But for kids with food allergies, they may feel left out if they can’t enjoy some of the food.

To take some of the focus off food, plan other activities or start new holiday traditions which will create magical memories your kids will remember for years to come.

5 Winter Superfoods for Kids

5 Winter Superfoods for Kids

The winter season lends itself to a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables bursting with flavor and packed with nutrition for your kids.

With more time indoors, winter is also one of the best times of year to experiment with new recipes, cook with your kids and give them plenty of opportunities to try—and even learn to love—new foods.

These 5 winter superfoods are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, can be incorporated into most dishes and are so delicious your kids will ask for seconds.

1. Cabbage

Green leafy vegetables are some of the healthiest vegetables you can feed your kids, and cabbage (white or red) falls into this category.

Cabbage is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C, K, B6 and folate.

Roast cabbage, sauté it with some coconut oil, or add it to your favorite stir-fry for a healthy and delicious meal.

2. Sweet potatoes

Rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, sweet potatoes also contain 3 grams of fiber and 284 percent daily value of vitamin A per 1/2 cup—making them one of the best winter superfoods for kids.

Roast sweet potatoes, mashed them or slice and top with scrambled eggs for a quick and healthy breakfast.

3. Beets

I know what you’re thinking: there’s no way my kid will eat beets. Beets have been a tough sell for my kids too, but it’s still worth a try

A good source of iron, vitamin C, magnesium, folate and potassium, beets are also high in fiber.

I don’t advocate sneaking vegetables for the sake of getting your kids to eat them, but there are some ways to make beets more palatable.

Try making your own roasted beet hummus like this one from Minimalist Baker.

Or roast beets with other root vegetables for a filling and delicious side dish or incorporate them into a fresh green juice.

4. Carrots

Most kids like carrots—a good thing since they’re so nutritious.

Carrots are high in vitamins A, B6 and folate, C and K, as well as iron and potassium. They’re also a great source of fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams.

Carrots are also a really versatile vegetable. Serve raw baby carrots with hummus or black bean dip, roast them with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, or add pureed carrots into soups, stews or make a carrot soufflé.

5. Parsnips

Sweet, savory and filling, parsnips are one of the quintessential winter superfoods for kids.

Parsnips are a good source of potassium and vitamins C, K and folate. With 5 grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup, they’ll satisfy your kid’s hunger and may cure constipation.

Roast parsnips, sauté them with some grass-fed butter and nutmeg or incorporate them into your favorite bread recipe for extra fiber and flavor.

6 Real Reasons Parents Don’t Feed Their Kids Healthy Food

6 Real Reasons Parents Don’t Feed Their Kids Healthy Food

When I was a child growing up in the 80’s, many parents fed their kids frozen TV dinners, meals that came out of a box and processed foods that were fast and convenient.

Today, grocery store shelves are still lined with these types of foods, but most parents know better.

They know more than 1/3 of children are overweight or obese.

They know that most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.

They know what it’s like to offer healthy foods only to have their kids turn up their noses at what’s being served or refuse to eat altogether.

Most parents also know that the foods kids eat and the healthy habits they learn now will affect their health in the future.

If parents know all of this, then why do they still feed their kids junk?

For starters, let’s be honest: there are plenty of things we all know are good for our kids and us but we don’t always do them.

Life gets in the way and we each have our unique set of circumstances and struggles that can make putting our health and our family’s health first a challenge.

However, there are some common beliefs, habits and perceived obstacles parents face that prevent them from feeding their kids healthy food but can easily be overcome with a simple shift in perspective. Here are 6.

1. Healthy eating isn’t that big of a deal


When I talk to other moms about what they feed their kids, it seems that although they know healthy eating is important, they see it more as a short-term, this-would-be-nice- type of goal.

They know it’s important for their kids’ growth and development, but they don’t think it should be a priority.

True, raising kids who are kind, good people is paramount but if we want our kids to be healthy now and well into the future, we much equip them with the information and tools to get there. 

2. Healthy eating is time consuming

Servings healthy meals definitely takes time to plan, prep and cook—more time than opening up a box of chicken nuggets or ordering take-out.

If you work, have multiple kids at home, care for an aging parent, and have other obligations, your time is even more limited.

A myth about eating healthy however, is that it’s too time consuming.

But nothing could be further from the truth. With meal planning, batch cooking and sticking to the basics, it is possible to serve kids healthy foods everyday and get dinner on the table (almost) every night.

3. Picky eating never ends

Most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters but I think a mistake parents often make is thinking, once a picky eater, always a picky eater.

True, some kids have sensory issues or are extreme picky eaters because of an eating disorder, but most kids can be healthy, adventurous eaters. 

When parents think there’s nothing that can be done about picky eating, they usually accommodate their kids by feeding them foods they know they’ll eat.

Yet this creates a cycle: kids eat the same foods over and over again and because they don’t get the opportunity to try new foods, they never do.

It’s important to remember that unless there’s an underlying issue, kids won’t starve and will eat when they’re hungry.

What’s more, when given plenty of opportunities to touch, smell, and taste a variety of foods, kids are capable of enjoying—even craving—healthy foods.

4. Parents don’t eat healthy

Environment plays a big role in raising kids who will accept and enjoy healthy foods.

According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a whopping 90 percent of adults don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.

If parents don’t eat healthy, chances are, they’re not feeding their kids healthy either.

Eating healthy meals together, reaching for healthy snacks and modeling healthy eating habits are all great ways to get your kids to eat healthy too.

5. Sweets are what childhood is made of

In our society, sweets are synonymous with childhood.

In a recent commercial for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Michael Strahan stated something along the lines of, “kids should get candy, not chemo.”

I’m sure you have fond childhood memories of going to the candy store and enjoying your grandmother’s cookies after school. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when we think, they’re kids, let them enjoy, without paying attention to what and how much they’re eating, it could be problematic.

Childhood is one of the most important times to make healthy eating a priority and teach those healthy habits because kids are growing and developing physically, mentally and emotionally.

Modeling for kids how to strike a balance between healthy foods and treats can also prevent them from becoming emotional eaters now and well into the future.

6. Picky eating power struggles are exhausting

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s perhaps the hardest job you’ll ever have as you teach, guide and instill values into your children every day. 

When you’ve got kids who are picky eaters, parenting becomes even more challenging.

You’re tired of throwing away meals that your kids barely touched, lunches that come home uneaten, and you’re over all the mealtime battles.

I think it’s safe to say all parents give in about something from time to time, but giving in all the time about meals puts your child in control of their health, when that’s actually our job as parents. 

We can’t expect perfection (whatever that is), but we can do our best to set up our kids for a healthy future.