[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms  These healthy back to school tips will help to keep you and your kids healthy and stress-free.

[VIDEO] 10 Healthy Back To School Tips For Moms

These healthy back to school tips will help to keep you and your kids healthy and stress-free.

When my daughters go back to school in a few short weeks, I’m trying to prepare myself for what happens every school year: they get sick.

Within weeks of returning to school last year, my older daughter would get a fever one day and then be fine the next. Despite my nagging to “wash your hands” and “keep your hands out of your mouth,” she missed several days of school.

I don’t want her to be sick of course, but as a working mom, all those sick days at home makes work challenging and adds another layer of stress to my already chaotic life.

It turns out, I’m not alone in feeling the back to school stress, especially when it comes to everything that has to get done. According to a survey by Coupons.com, 50 percent of moms with kids in school say shopping for and packing school lunches makes them feel stressed.

So here’s the good news: there are some easy, healthy back to school tips that can go a long way in helping to keep your kids healthy and you from pulling your hair out. Here are 10.

 

 

1. Don’t overthink healthy back to school lunches

Those photos of beautifully crafted bento boxes for school lunches that fill up your Instagram feed can definitely give you some inspiration, but who has time to make fruit into animal shapes and sandwiches into pinwheels?

Instead, stick to the basics.

Have a list of go-to foods that are healthy and quick, re-purpose leftovers, batch cook ahead of time, and set aside individual portions of grab and go snacks.

Also, focus on whole foods instead of processed foods: fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, beans and legumes, whole grains and calcium-rich foods.

Related: 7 Hacks for Stress-Free School Lunches

2. Teach kids to wash their hands

Kids under the age of 6 in particular get 8 to 10 colds a year, not including the countless fevers, infections and stomach bugs they’ll get this year.

Although it’s probably inevitable that your kids will get sick, one thing you’ll want to do your best to avoid is the flu.

Last year, despite my entire family getting our flu shots, we still got the flu and it was horrible. In kids under 5, the flu can be dangerous, even deadly.

The flu spreads quickly, especially because at school, kids are in close contact.

So one of the best healthy back to school tips to garner is to teach your kids the importance of washing their hands.

Teaching your kids proper hand washing can prevent the spread of infection and cut down on the amount of times they get sick.

Show kids how to wash with warm water and soap, wash all surfaces of their hands including their fingernails and in between their fingers, and wash while singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Also, remind kids to sneeze in their arm—not their hands—to prevent the spread of germs.

3. Don’t forget about healthy back to school snacks

According to a survey published in 2014 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.

So when it comes to healthy back to school snacks, do your best to swap crackers, pretzels and fruit gummies for fruits and vegetables.

 

Looking for crazy, easy ways to get your kids to eat their vegetables? Check out my video:

 

 

4. Add probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods

Another way to boost your child’s immunity is by serving up plenty of foods with probiotics, or the healthy, live microorganisms found in the gut. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and naturally fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and pickles.

It’s also a good idea to include foods rich in prebiotics, which are non-digestible food ingredients that work with probiotics to boost your child’s immunity.

Prebiotic rich foods include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas and Jerusalem artichokes.

5. Making sleep a priority is one of the best healthy back to school tips

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

Not only can lack of sleep affect your kid’s energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance in school and on the field, sleep deprivation can also affect their weight.

When kids are sleep-deprived, the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack.

Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, making it more likely that your kid will overeat.

Power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and help your kids wind down before bed with a story, prayer and some snuggle time.

5. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet 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, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid 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 didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

6. Carve out time for breakfast

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet 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, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid 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 didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

If your kids don’t have an appetite in the morning or don’t have enough time, try moving back their bed time and getting them up earlier.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

7. Move more

My kids are constantly in motion and although I take them to the park and for bike rides, I still find getting them 60 minutes exercise a day a challenge.

Nevertheless, I do my best to make sure they get some form of exercise in every day.

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

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

8. Help kids cope with anxiety

Most healthy back to school tips focus on physical health, but let’s talk about mental health for a second.

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.

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.

As someone who has had anxiety since childhood, I can tell you it’s not a crutch or a character flaw.

Anxiety is real so recognizing the signs is key.

Teaching kids techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation can all be helpful. If you suspect your child has an anxiety disorder or you simply need help coping, seek out a therapist who can offer treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Related: 5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Makes Kids Happy

9. Make an appointment for an eye exam

Since vision problems can sometimes look like problems with focus and concentration or reading difficulties, and they can go undiagnosed. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a routine eye exam.

Another factor to consider is the effects electronic devices are having on kids’ eye health. According to a 2015 survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 41 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours a day using digital devices.

Digital eye strain can cause burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain, according to AOA.

Research also suggests that the blue light these devices emit may affect vision and lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness down the line.   

Related: 5 Best Foods For Healthy Eyes

10. And finally, one of the best healthy back to school tips? Learn to say “no”

Between homework, after-school activities and coordinating schedules, if you’re like me, you don’t stop all day.

I also find nearly every week there are extras that the schools ask you to help out with like school fundraisers, classroom parties and field trips.

I particular dislike “crazy hair day,” and “silly socks day,” that I just don’t have time for.

My advice is to get good at saying no. Sure, homework is a priority, but running the bake sale? Not so much.

Also, carve out some me-time anywhere you can get it.

Maybe it’s your favorite early morning class at the gym, meeting a friend for coffee on Saturday morning, or just taking 10 minutes to meditate after the kids go to sleep.

Whatever me-time looks like for you, put your oxygen mask on first. It will make you a better mom and better equipped to handle the school year. 

10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch  Packing a healthy school lunch doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming.

10 Best Tips For Packing a Healthy School Lunch

Packing a healthy school lunch doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming.

Back to school season is right around the corner—please, contain your excitement! But after you go shopping for clothes, gear and everything else, chances are you’ll be thinking about packing a healthy school lunch every day especially if you (like me) think school lunches served in the cafeteria are some of the worst.

When you pack lunch with the right balance of nutrition, your kids will have the energy and focus they need to make it through the day.

Packing a healthy school lunch everyday is also an opportunity to switch things up and introduce a variety of foods that your kids can grow to love—even if they come home with it untouched at first.

From what foods to include, and which ones to leave out, of your kid’s lunch box, here are my best tips.

1. Start with fruit and vegetables

You might think that the foods you pack are healthy, but there’s some research that shows many parents actually miss the mark.

According to a July 2014 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, only 27 percent of the lunches from more than 600 kids surveyed met at least three of the five National School Lunch Program standards, which include things like including whole grains and cutting sodium.

One of the best tips for packing a healthy school lunch is to start by including a fruit and a vegetable—which should make up 50 percent of your kid’s lunch box. 

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

2. Always include protein

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

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

Instead, stick with chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs, fish and seafood.

Related:  What Types of Fish Are Safe For Kids?

3. Choose whole grains

Grains should make up about 1/4 of your kid’s lunch box but do your best to focus on whole grains like whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, quinoa or another type of gluten-free grain.

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

4. Add a source of calcium

The USDA MyPlate recommends milk or sources of dairy with meals because of the calcium kids need for strong teeth and bones. 

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

5. Upgrade your PB&J

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an easy, affordable and a sure-fire way to get your picky eater to eat lunch.

Look at most brands of peanut butter however, and you’ll discover they’re filled with oils, sugar and salt. Most types of jelly and fruit preserves are high in sugar too.

Read labels and look for peanut butter or another type of nut butter with minimal ingredients. I like Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter or Justin’s. Instead of jelly, mash up fresh raspberries for a delicious, fiber-rich option.

6. Switch it up with seasonal eats

Do your best to help your kid “eat the rainbow” and offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Also, consider including in-season fruits and vegetables which are fresher and can be more affordable.

Cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin and figs are great choices for the back to school season.

Related: 5 Health Benefits of Figs

If your kid is a picky eater however, pack fruits and vegetables you know he’ll eat. After a few weeks, start to add in small amounts (a teaspoon will do) of new fruits and vegetables you’d like him to try.

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

7. Get a cool lunch box

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

8. Stick to real food

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

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

Although you may not be able to completely eliminate processed foods in one fell swoop, try to replace fruit gummy snacks with fresh fruit or a bag of pretzels with seeds, for example.

Related: 5 Healthy After-School Snacks

9. Offer water instead of sugary drinks and juice

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

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

10. Stick with it

There’s no doubt your kids will be envious of what other kids are eating for lunch, complain that they don’t like what you’re packing, or refuse to eat altogether.

It’s really frustrating and you’ll probably worry that your kid isn’t eating enough but stay consistent. Remember that your goal is to raise healthy kids who are willing to try—and eventually accept—a variety of healthy foods.

Studies show proper nutrition can prevent chronic health conditions, is linked to increase in cognitive function, attention and memory, higher achievement on standardized tests, athletic performance and improved sleep.

Related: 10 Reasons Kids Should Eat Healthy That Have Nothing to Do With Childhood Obesity

That’s not to say you can’t add in a cookie or a dessert, because part of learning how to eat healthy includes balance, but make it a special, occasional treat instead of an everyday thing.

What are some of your tips for packing a healthy school lunch? Let me know in the comments!

10 Kids’ Healthy Eating Tips That Are Evidence-Based

10 Kids’ Healthy Eating Tips That Are Evidence-Based

If you’re a parent, going to Dr. Google and searching for answers to health-related questions is a given. Whether it’s about cold and flu symptoms, an odd skin rash, or kids’ healthy eating advice, we all go online first.

In fact, an April 2015 study in the Interactive Journal of Medical Research found 80 percent of parents who searched online for information about their child’s health started with a search engine, while only 20 percent went to a university or hospital-based website.

Although it’s easier than ever to get the answers you need quickly, what you’ll find isn’t always credible.

Newsguard, a site run by journalists that rates the reliability of news sites found 1 in 10 websites include misinformation about health, a recent story by STAT found

When it comes to kids’ nutrition, it’s much of the same with bloggers promoting sneaky tactics to get kids to eat vegetables or kids’ Keto recipes. And more recently, parents posting videos of scare tactics to get their kids to eat.

In our fast-paced, high-stress, mobile-driven world, searching online for health information isn’t going to stop.

My advice however, is to use sites that have articles reviewed by doctors or medical professionals like Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials or EverydayHealth.com and be sure to check in with your child’s doctor too.

Through these channels, you’ll find information about health and kids’ healthy eating tips that are backed by research. Here are 10 tips to consider.

1. Eat more 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 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 linked with 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.

2. Serve new foods repeatedly—up to 15 times!

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.

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.

And 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.

3. Offer more fruits and vegetables

According to a survey published in 2014 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.

So no surprise here that one of the best kids’ healthy eating tips that are evidence based is to eat more. 

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.

4. Dish out fish and seafood every week

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 that 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?

5. Cut down on sugar, juice and sweet drinks

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, that works out to be about 30 to 35 grams of added sugar for little ones who get between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day, according to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in New York City.

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.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you’re going to give kids juice, limit it to between 4 and 8 ounces a day depending on their age while infants under 1 should avoid it altogether.

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

6. Don’t be afraid of 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 their hunger but the AAP recommends they make up no more than 30 percent of kids’ total calories.

Healthy fats are 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.

7. Avoid 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 because 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. 

8. Get kids to drink more water

According to an April 2019 survey in JAMA Pediatrics, 20 percent of kids don’t drink water at all and instead drink soda and sugary drinks—a sneaky source of calories and sugar.

When your kids are mildly dehydrated it can make them feel tired, lack focus and make them struggle with easy tasks.

Studies show brain tissue can even temporarily shrink without enough water in the body. And even if your kids eat healthy, they could become constipated.

9. Make time for breakfast 

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

Yet 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, the same study found.

Eating a healthy breakfast gives kid 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 didn’t eat breakfast.

And a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.

Related: 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

10. Cut down on sodium

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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.

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

[VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

[VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

Getting your kids to eat their vegetables is usually a challenge, but when it comes to fruit, most babies, toddlers and big kids love it.

Fresh, whole fruit is ideal for kids: it has plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water which kids not only need to thrive, but promotes feelings of satiety and can prevent constipation.

For those times when fresh fruit isn’t available or convenient however, you may have wondered, is dried fruit healthy for kids? Does dried fruit have too much sugar? And are raisins are a healthy snack for kids?

Here are answers those questions and more.

Short on time? Check out my video.

Dried fruit health benefits

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of whole fruit kids consume has increased 67 percent, but 60 percent of kids still aren’t eating enough. 

So whether you buy it in a bag, a box, or as part of your favorite trail mix, dried fruit can be healthy for kids and a way to increase the amount of servings they get each day.

Dried fruit contains more fiber and phenols, a type of antioxidant that’s protective against certain diseases, than fresh fruit per ounce, Anthony Komaroff, M.D. states in this article.

What’s more, dried fruit can provide significant proportions of the daily recommended intake of several micronutrients like folate.

However, certain types of dried fruit lose some of their nutrients like vitamins A, C, thiamine and folate—a result of the drying process.

Unlike other types of kids’ snacks, dried fruit contains no sodium, cholesterol or fat (except for coconut).

Adding dried fruit to a salad, veggies, or plain Greek yogurt for example, can make it taste better and encourage your kids to eat foods they wouldn’t have otherwise touched.

Dried fruit is healthy because it has natural sugars, right?

When it comes to sugar, most experts say that it’s the added sugars that we should be paying attention to.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), too much added sugar can increase a child’s risk for obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends kids between 2 and 18 eat less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugars a day.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels continue to be rolled out, it will be easier than ever to decipher the grams of natural and added sugars in a food.

Although some experts consider dried fruit healthy for kids because it has natural sugars, I’m not convinced.

Through my work as a health journalist, I’m of the mind that all sugar, whether it’s natural or added, has the same effect on the body and should be limited.

And some experts agree.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “…high fructose corn syrup is absolutely worse for you than the natural sugar found in berries and apples, but for the most part, sugar is sugar is sugar. It all wreaks havoc on your health.”

Another thing to consider is that some manufacturers add sugar to certain types of dried fruit like tart cranberries so that they’ll taste sweet.

Related: What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

The calories in dried fruit can add up quickly

When you compare the same serving size of fresh fruit to dried fruit, dried fruit has  more calories.

Counting calories isn’t something any kid should be doing, whether they’re overweight or not. But it’s important to keep in mind that since dried fruit is so sweet and snackable, it’s easy to go overboard.

Are raisins a healthy snack for kids?

Individual portions of raisins are a kid-favorite and can be a healthy addition to your kid’s diet.

One small box has nearly 2 grams of fiber and protein, and they’re also a good source of iron, potassium and magnesium, the “calming mineral.”

Yet keep in mind that raisins are also high in sugar— 25 grams worth—so stick with grapes when you can, which are lower in sugar and more filling thanks to the amount of water they contain.

What about yogurt-covered raisins?

Yogurt-covered raisins sound like a healthy option for kids, but take a look at what Sun-Maid Vanilla Yogurt Raisins are actually made with:

Yogurt flavored coating (sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat milk  powder, yogurt powder (cultured whey and nonfat milk), whey powder, artificial color (titanium dioxide), soy lecithin—an emulsifier, and vanilla),tapioca dextrin, confectioners glaze).

When you consider the ingredients, it’s best to serve these as a treat—or not at all.

Tips for Buying & Serving Dried Fruit

The next time you give your kids dried fruit, keep these tips in mind.

  • Since certain types of fruit (whether they’re fresh or dried) make the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, consider purchasing organic dried fruit to avoid pesticide exposure.
  • Read labels carefully and look for products where dried fruit is the only ingredient.
  • When buying cranberries, choose those that are sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, Cynthia Sass, RD states in this article.
  • Avoid dried fruit with artificial preservatives like sulfur dioxide and other additives.
  • Think of dried fruit as an extra: add it in small quantities to unsalted nuts and seeds, oatmeal, healthy cookies or homemade bars, and to vegetable and grain dishes.
  • Keep portion sizes in mind: one cup of fresh fruit is equivalent to 1/4 of dried fruit. But keep in mind, kids’ portion sizes are typically smaller depending on their ages.

The bottom line: dried fruit can be healthy for kids, but it’s best consumed in moderation and in the right portions.

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook  Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook

Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

Although my kids eat just about anything I put on their plates today, when my younger daughter was a toddler—and a picky eater—I fell into the trap of being a short order cook.

If she didn’t eat the food I served, or didn’t eat what I thought was “enough,” there were times when I’d pull something different out of the refrigerator that I knew she would eat.

Although this short order cooking made my life a lot easier, I realized that if I made it a habit, it would be a tough one to break.

And more importantly, I wanted her to learn that what I served was the only option, and she could choose to eat it or not.

If you have toddlers or young children who are picky eaters or flat out refuse to eat, chances are, you’ve become a short order cook too.

Here, I’d like you to consider 5 reasons why you should nip it in the bud ASAP.

1. Your child misses out on opportunities to try new foods

The key to raising kids who are healthy and adventurous eaters is giving them plenty of opportunities to try new foods.

The reality is that we can’t expect our kids to instantly love broccoli or take to carrots on the first try.

In fact, studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite.

Related: Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

If kids eat the same foods over and over again, they’ll never expand their preferences for new foods they may actually come to love.

2. Being a short order cook is too time consuming

Whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between, life is hectic and you’re exhausted after a long day.

Although short order cooking can make dinnertime less stressful, making one meal for the whole family and an additional meal for your picky eater takes more time—even if it is only opening a package of frozen chicken nuggets.

Something else to consider is that preparing a second meal for your child can also make your life stressful if you have to constantly make sure you have foods on hand that your kid will eat.

If you go to a family or friend’s house for dinner and they serve something you know your kid will refuse, you’ll have to pack foods for him which only reinforces the picky eating.

You start to believe, “my kid is a picky eater,” and will only eat a handful of foods, when in reality, you can’t expect any different when that’s all he’s being served in the first place.

3. Short order cooking creates power struggles

It’s normal for toddlers to be picky eaters and a part of that is their desire for control.

So if you continue to be a short order cook, your child learns that no matter what he wants, you’ll give in.

According to Ellyn Satter, an authority on eating and feeding, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide the what, when and where of feeding, and the child’s responsibility to decide how much and whether to eat.

4. Short order cooking usually means less nutritious food

I think it’s safe to say that kids who eat separate meals from the rest of the family usually eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.

Boxed macaroni and cheese, kid-friendly frozen meals, pasta with butter, and processed snack foods are usually easy, go-to foods while fruits and vegetables rarely make their way on kids’ plates.

5. Kids may grow up to be picky eating adults

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons not to be a short order cook is that you want to raise kids who will be healthy throughout their lives.

According to an article in the New York Times, 75 percent of adults who call themselves picky eaters say the behaviors started in childhood.

In the U.S., we’re facing sky-high rates of obesity, chronic health conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD), autoimmunity and depression and anxiety.

Not to mention, we have a nation of people who turn to food when they’re stressed, bored or frustrated instead of finding healthy, more effective ways to cope.

Teaching our kids how to eat healthy and have healthy eating habits is important because their lives depend on it now and well into the future.

How Not to Be a Short Order Cook

Offer choices

While scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner certain nights, when you do cook meals, try to offer choices.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy

choices—as long as those choices are offered.

Put out a cooked vegetable and a salad, serve one of your kid’s favorite foods along with a new food, or serve a type of fruit you know your kid will eat—even if he eats nothing else.

Eat meals together

Family dinners may not happen every night, but sitting down as a family to eat any meal can prevent short order cooking.

In fact, children who eat with their families at least 3 times a week are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.

Cook with your kids

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

Cooking with your kids provides another opportunity to expand their palates and try new flavors, tastes and textures.

Stay consistent

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to.

It’s also important to realize that everyone has their own food preferences so he won’t love what’s being served all of the time.

Just like with anything else that you have rules about or teach your children, they may not like it but that’s the way it goes!

Did you used to be a short order cook? How were you able to put an end to it?