6 Reasons Cherries Are Healthy For Kids + Recipes!

6 Reasons Cherries Are Healthy For Kids + Recipes!

Cherries are one of the most healthy and delicious fruits during the spring and summer months and a favorite in U.S. households: people consume more than 2 pounds of cherries each year.

Whether you add them to a lunch box, serve them as a snack or dish them up as an after-dinner treat, chances are, they’ll be a hit with your kids.

Not only do kids love to eat bite-sized foods, but they also get to be in control and feel empowered to choose how much they want to eat, which may encourage them to make healthy choices at other times of the day too.

It goes without saying however, that if you have little ones, be sure to pit the cherries to prevent choking. Since they have a tough texture, it may also be a good idea to puree them if you’re serving them to an infant.

Read on to discover 5 reasons why cherries are healthy for kids, plus some healthy and delicious recipes.

1. Rich in antioxidants

Cherries are high in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Vitamin C in particular, is important for skin, bones and connective tissue, promotes healing, helps the body to absorb iron and helps in the formation of neurotransmitters, or the body’s chemical messengers.

2. Supports brain health

Cherries are also rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that provides their rich red pigment.

Anthocyanin is also known to support cognitive and motor function and improve visual and neurological health.

Studies in mice suggest consuming cherries also supports brain health, improves memory, and prevents Alzheimer’s disease.

3. High in fiber

Since most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, they’re falling short on fiber which is necessary to satiate hunger, keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent constipation.

Studies also show eating plenty of fiber lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

In fact, a January 2019 review in The Lancet found compared to people who ate less fiber, those who ate more fiber had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, colon cancer and a risk of dying early from any cause, by 15 to 30 percent.

With more than 3 grams of fiber in one cup, cherries will help kids get the fiber they need.

4. May prevent type-2 diabetes

Cherries have a low glycemic load so they don’t spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which may prevent type-2 diabetes, a condition that’s on the rise among kids

5. Heart-healthy

Although the research is still unclear, some studies suggest drinking tart cherry juice or consuming cherries may lower levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In fact, a small June 2019 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found consuming the juice of Montmorency cherries reduced insulin levels and blood pressure.

Although heart disease isn’t something to be concerned about when your child is young, what they eat today can set the stage for their diet—and their health—well into the future. 

6. May make bedtime easier

If you have little ones, bedtime is one of the most dreaded times of the day to begin with.

But older children may get less sleep than they need because of electronics use, evening activities, homework, and a lack of sleep rules such as a sticking with a consistent bedtime, for example. 

Instead of turning to a melatonin supplement, which experts say is a concern for kids, eating a handful of cherries may help.

In fact, a December 2012 study in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests consuming tart cherry juice can improve the duration and quality of sleep.

That’s because cherries are the only natural source of melatonin, Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and best-selling author said in this article.

Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles.

Healthy Cherry Recipes

Here are some of my favorite healthy cherry recipes to try.

Brown Butter Cherry Bars by Tutti Dolci

Fresh Cherry Sauce by The Brewer & The Baker

Cherry Almond Smoothie by Hungry Girl For Vida

Super Detox Salad by Well Plated

Cherry Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins by Hip Foodie Mom

Cherry Pomegranate Limeade Popsicles by Chef Savvy

Do your kids eat cherries? How do you serve them? Let me know in the comments.

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

The Memorial Day BBQ is the unofficial start to the summer and whether you’ll be hosting or visiting family and friends, there will be plenty of food.

Yet between hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dip and your favorite red-white-and-blue dessert, Memorial Day is also one of the most caloric, high-sugar, fat-laden holidays of the year.

While I encourage my kids to try new foods and indulge on any holiday, I also worry that they’ll overeat, which in the past, have caused them to become physically ill.

Not only that, but I want to teach them healthy eating habits and how to enjoy food without going overboard.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice taste, forego your favorite summertime dishes or have “food rules” to strike a balance. Here are 7 healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas that will allow your family to enjoy without getting too far off track.

Stay hydrated

Chances are Memorial Day will be a warm, sunny day and your kids will be running around so it’s important to encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Encourage your kid to stick with water throughout the day, 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. See also: How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Since thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, drinking water before you arrive to your cookout can prevent overeating.

2. Offer veggies


The great thing about the vegetables served at Memorial Day BBQs is that they’re often kid-friendly.

Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, brightly-colored sliced bell peppers, cucumber slices, broccoli florets and jicama “fries,” are often kid favorites and if they’re served with a dip, even better.

You can also set up a station with a variety of vegetables and have your kids make their own grilled veggie kabobs.

Although your kids may still not want to eat vegetables since other, tastier options will be available, do your best to get some on their plates since they’ll help to satisfy their hunger, fill them up, and prevent constipation.

3. Arrive hungry

Most nutrition experts advise people to have a small snack before they arrive at a party to prevent overeating, but arriving hungry may actually be a good thing for your kids.

By taking advantage of their hunger, you might have an easier time of encouraging them to make at least a few healthy choices.

Instead of filling up their plates with chips, which they’re probably going to eat anyway, you may be able to get them to eat fruits and vegetables first and have a more balanced meal.

4. Upgrade your protein

Most kids love hamburgers and hot dogs, but think about other protein options for you and them.

Instead of regular ‘ol hamburgers, make your own using grass fed beef. Or serve organic grilled chicken, shrimp or pull together a bean salad or lentil chili.

5. Include healthy dessert options

Kids should enjoy s’mores, ice cream or a festive Memorial Day dessert, but why not have other options available too to show kids that healthy food can be delicious.

Consider making a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries, homemade fruit popsicles, or an almond butter fruit dip.

6. Pay attention to portions


When buffets, family style dining, and bowls of snacks are out for the day, it’s easy for kids to grab and lose sight of how much they’re eating.

Although I let my kids decide what they want to eat, I also help them make up their plate and keep portion sizes at bay.

7. Set up games and activities


There’s no doubt kids will be busy running and playing at their Memorial Day BBQ, but you can also set up games and activities that encourage them to move more. 

Think: ring toss, jump rope, hide and seek, tag, telephone or freeze dance.

What are some of your healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas? Let me know in the comments!

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

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

We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet, the U.S. is home to millions of children who go hungry every day.

If you’re able to put food on the table every day and never have to worry about feeding your kids, it can be really hard to wrap your head around this issue, as it was for me.

I wondered, what does it really mean when kids “go hungry?”

Living in a food insecure household can mean a family doesn’t have food in their home and not enough money to purchase it.

Some families may have food, but not enough to feed their families each month. As a result, parents may skip meals or cut back on their kids’ portions.

The reasons for food insecurity are complicated, but there are some important facts about child hunger you should know. Here are 5.

 

1. Children go hungry regardless of where they live

According to a 2017 report by No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in the U.S.— an estimated 13 million—face hunger. 

A misconception is that food insecure families only live in low-income areas. In fact, 93 percent of Americans don’t believe they know children in their neighborhood who go to school hungry, a 2019 report found.

Yet kids in affluent communities are certainly affected. According to a 2019 report by Feeding America, every U.S. county and congressional district has people who face hunger, at a rate that ranges between 3 to 36 percent for the overall population.

 

2. Child hunger has devastating health effects

Kids who go hungry have an increased risk for a host of chronic health conditions and problems including anemia, asthma, anxiety, depression, tooth decay, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and more frequent colds. Hungry kids are also more likely to be hospitalized.

3. Child hunger affects school performance and behavior

Eating a healthy breakfast is important for a child’s overall health and academic performance, but sadly, 59 percent of kids from low income families don’t eat before school because of food insecurity and three out of four teachers say they have students who regularly come to school hungry.

As a result, teachers say students who are hungry lose their ability to focus, have poor academic performance and behavioral and discipline problems.

Kids from food insecure households are also more likely to have developmental delays, be held back, repeat a grade in elementary school, and drop out of high school.

4. Children are more likely to face hunger than the general U.S. population

The rates of children who are food insecure are higher than those of the overall population in the U.S., a recent report found. Although child hunger is a nationwide problem, rural and southern communities are impacted the most.

5. More kids go hungry during the summer

Kids who rely on free and reduced school lunch and breakfast are often left without meals during the summer months.

According to No Kid Hungry, only 1 in 7 kids who are eligible for free summer meals through the national Summer Food Service Program, aren’t getting them, either because families don’t know about the program or they don’t know where to find it.

To help a family in need, search the USDA’s meal service site finder tool or text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877.

6. Children may not eat healthy, even when they have access to food

Local food banks can help to fill the gap for food insecure families, but they may not always have the healthiest foods.

Most food is processed and packaged food that have a long shelf life and tend to be made with refined carbohydrates like white pasta and rice, and high in sodium, like canned goods.

In fact, less than 10 percent of the food offered through food banks nationally is fresh produce, according to The New York Times.

What’s more, an April 2017 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found diets of people who access food banks have low nutritional value, and inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, dairy and calcium.

Even when nutritional intake was sufficient, many did not meet the recommendations for vitamins A, C, D, and B vitamins, or iron, magnesium, and zinc.

The good news is that through initiatives like Feeding America’s National Produce Program, more food insecure families are getting the healthy food they need.

What you can do to help end child hunger

 

Childhood hunger is a widespread problem in the U.S., but there are several ways you can help.

Advocate

To help protect and expand federal programs like SNAP for food insecure families, contact your senators and representatives today.

Volunteer

Local food banks need volunteers to sort, stock shelves, pack and distribute food. Search Feeding America for a list of local food banks in your area.

If you’re looking to volunteer with your kids, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about—and serve—others in need, but many food banks do not allow kids under age 10.

Check with your local churches, shelters, and community organizations, or search VolunteerMatch.org for other opportunities that you can do with younger kids.

Curb food waste

Despite the overabundance of food in the U.S., we’re a nation of waste. Homes and  businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are wasting more than 80 percent of food.

If you own or operate a food business, contact Meal Connect, an organization that accepts excess food and donates it to local food banks, food pantries and meal programs.

For tips for your home, read, 10 Tips To Reduce Food Waste When Feeding Kids.

Fundraise or donate

No Kid Hungry and Feeding America have information available for people interested in fundraising opportunities, special events, and ways to donate.

 

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Best and Worst Drinks For Kids

Longer days and warmer temperatures mean more time for outdoor sports, bike riding, and playing at the park.

Since kids are usually more active this time of year than during the winter, getting them to stay hydrated is much easier but what they drink is key.

Most drinks marketed to kids and young athletes are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. Those so-called “healthy” kids made with ingredients like dairy and fruit? They’re no better.

So what should your kids drink to stay hydrated? Here, get a list of the best and worst drinks for kids.

Best Kid’s Drinks

Water

Water makes up 60 percent of a child’s body weight and is an essential nutrient, responsible for every function in the body.

Pure, simple H2O may not be their first choice, but it’s the best because it gives their bodies what they need and it quenches their thirst without any unnecessary calories, fat or sugar.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says water should be their main source of hydration.

Depending on their age, weight and sex, kids should get between 6 and 8 cups of water a day, although that can include drinking water and water from foods like fruits and vegetables.

If you have trouble getting your kids to drink enough water, here are 5 ways to encourage them.

Milk

My kids will drink cow’s milk from time to time, but overall, I’m not a fan of it.

Expert say drinking dairy isn’t necessary.

Although it’s been promoted as a food that builds strong bones, studies show consuming dairy doesn’t reduce the risk of hip fractures in men and women.

Consuming dairy has also been linked to increased risks for heart disease, cancer and death.

Besides, they get their calcium from other, better calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Still, if you decide to serve it to your kids, it does have some benefits. It’s a good source of protein, vitamins A, B6, B12, D (because it’s added), calcium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, selenium and zinc.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids between 1 and 8-years old should get 2 cups a day of dairy or milk and kids 9 and older should get 3 cups.

Non-dairy milk alternatives

Almond milk, coconut milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives usually have less protein and calories than cow’s milk, but they can have as much, if not more, calcium and vitamin D.

Compare brands and read labels carefully. I like to steer clear of those that are high in sugar and instead choose those made without artificial ingredients and are non-GMO, like Califia Farms.

Worst Kids’ Drinks

 

 

 

Soda

It goes without saying that soda is hands down the worst drink for kids. Soda is high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors.

Soda and other sugary drinks are main contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic, and conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which are also on the rise in kids.

Despite the health risks, 63 percent of kids consume a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

If your kids won’t drink plain water, serving sparkling water with cucumbers or strawberries, for example, for some sweetness is an OK substitute. 

The more you can steer them away from the fizzy stuff and encourage them to drink water however, the better the chances that they’ll stick with the healthy habit throughout their lives.

 

 

Flavored milk

It blows my mind that chocolate milk is an acceptable drink for school lunch and

it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to change my kids’ school lunch program.

Flavored milk may have calcium and protein, but the sugar content is way too high: a 1/2 cup of low-fat chocolate milk has nearly 25 grams of sugar

as much as a chocolate bar!

 

 

Juice

Kids love to drink juice, and juice boxes are really convenient especially when you’re spending time outside, but juice is one of the worst drinks for kids.

Juice lacks fiber and is high in calories and concentrated sugars.

Drinking too much juice can lead to cavities, weight gain and diarrhea, in babies and toddlers.

Surprisingly the claim “fruit juice from concentrate” is actually added sugar and even if the label says “100 percent fruit juice,” it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.

Learn more about why juice isn’t healthy for kids and how homemade juicing can fit into a child’s diet.

 

Lemonade

It may be the quintessential summertime drink, but both store-bought and homemade lemonades are high in sugar.

Since lemons are acidic, letting your kids sip on lemonade all day can also cause erosion, which leads to cavities.

Save lemonade for an occasional treat or for weekend barbecues and make your own. Try this recipe for healthy homemade lemonade.

 

Ice tea

Ice tea sounds like a healthy and benign choice—tea is high in antioxidants, after all, but sweetened ice teas are high in sugar.

With unsweetened ice tea, you won’t get the sugar but some brands also have caffeine.

As an alternative, you can brew a non-caffeinated herbal tea at home. Keep in mind  however, that some herbal teas aren’t safe for kids so read labels and when in doubt, check with your pediatrician.

 

Fruit smoothies

Smoothies are often seen as a health food, yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars, but sugar is sugar.

If your kids like smoothies, make your own at home. Combine 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit to keep the sugar low and pay attention to add-ins which can make a drink meant to quench your kid’s thirst, enough calories to be a meal.

 

Sports and energy drinks

Sports and energy drinks are heavily marketed to kids, particularly for those that play sports, but they’re a significant source of calories and sugar.

Energy drinks also contain caffeine, and other stimulants, which have been linked to harmful neurological and cardiovascular effects, according to the AAP.

The AAP says water is usually fine for kids playing sports but sports drinks can be helpful for young kids who are engaged in prolonged, vigorous sports. Energy drinks should be avoid altogether.

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

When you have kids who are picky eaters, it can take months—even years—

to get them to try a bite of new, healthy foods.

You do your best to offer fruits and vegetables, try new recipes, different cooking methods or add butter or cheese to make them more appealing but nothing seems to work.

Picky eating is really frustrating and if you’re ready to throw in the towel, you’re not the only one.

According to a 2018 survey out of the U.K., half of moms and dads have given up persuading their kids to eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

Take heed—and stick with it.

With spring time in full swing, there is perhaps no better time of year to offer all the healthy superfoods the season has to offer and take advantage of fun activities that can get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors for good. Here are 5.

Short on time? Get 3 tips in this quick video.

1. Berry picking

Although my kids eat just about anything, they have fallen into picky eating patterns in the past.

Last year for example, the only types of fruits my older daughter would eat were bananas, mangos, watermelon and cantaloupe.

As a toddler, she used to eat berries by the handful but now it had become impossible.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal—she was eating fruit after all—but berries are high in fiber, a great source of antioxidants and low glycemic, so they don’t have as high of an impact on blood sugar as the types of fruits she was eating.

Kids have their own food preferences of course, so I didn’t push the issue. But my gut feeling was that it was a phase.

Everything changed when we visited my mother-in-law in Delaware and made an impromptu trip to a blueberry orchard.

Maybe it was the experience of berry picking (likely) or that her Italian grandmother, who can get her to eat just about anything, was there (even more likely).

But within seconds, my daughter was saying: “I love blueberries!” and “blueberries are delicious!”

As we continued to pick the blueberries, I shook my head. I couldn’t believe how one new experience could literally change her perspective in seconds flat.

One of my Instagram followers had a similar experience:

“… this is how I got my daughter [to] eat more fruit. We go pick fruit all the time! She loves it and most of the time more goes in her tummy than in the bucket.”

May is the season to pick strawberries, but keep up the fun throughout the summer by picking blueberries, peaches, nectarines and cherries as well.

2. Farmers’ market

Visiting your local farmers’ market is a spring activity that can put an end to picky eating.

Kids learn where food comes from and it’s a new way for them to be exposed to local fruits and vegetables.

Let your kids pick out something they’ve never tried before and prepare it together at home—it will make them feel empowered and more likely to eat it.    

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

3. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm allows you to purchase local, seasonal food directly from local farmers.

You purchase a “share,” usually a box of vegetables, but some CSAs also include other farm products like eggs and cheese, that you receive each week.

It may be a benefit or a drawback depending on how you look at it, but you’ll receive varieties of vegetables that you never tried or heard of before.

Some CSAs may also allow you to personalize your share and choose some of the produce that’s included.

If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA, then take a visit to a local farm. Many local farms host tours, cooking classes and special events that can encourage your kids to try new foods.

4. Plant a garden

Last year, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.

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

When kids learn how to grow their own food, they get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor and their perspectives can change overnight.

If you don’t have space for a garden, use small potted plants, grow herbs, sprouts or microgreens, or look for community gardens where you can plant your own food.

5. Have a picnic

Sometimes all it takes to get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors is a change of scenery.

Take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days and head out to the park, picnic grounds or even your own backyard for a picnic with your kids.

Pack foods you know they’ll eat in addition to some new, in-season foods, which they may be more likely to eat because eating outside is something different—and fun.

What are some of your favorite spring activities that have encouraged your kids to eat healthy? Let me know in the comments!