[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? 

10 Healthy 4th of July Snacks For Kids

10 Healthy 4th of July Snacks For Kids

The 4th of July is the quintessential American holiday filled with parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues. Whether you’re the one hosting or you’ll be a guest, hot dogs, burgers and corn on the cob are a sure-bet for kids, but you might want to also have some healthy 4th of July snacks on hand too.

These 10 healthy recipes are festive, super-easy to make, and will satisfy your kid’s hunger in between lawn games and fun in the pool. Bonus: there are gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free options!

Related: [VIDEO] 10 Summer Healthy Eating Ideas For Kids

 

1. Fruit Sparklers

2. American Flag Vegetable Tray

2. Patriotic Yogurt Bites

3. Kid-Friendly Avocado Hummus Cups

3. Red, White and Blue Popsicles

4. Gluten-Free Berry Fruit Pizza

5. Zucchini Parmesan Fries

6. Melon Prosciutto Mozzarella Skewers

7. American Flag Cheese Plate

8. Blueberry, Strawberry & Jicama Salsa

9. Caprese Salad Skewers

10. Popcorn with dried blueberries and cranberries

Should you raise your child vegetarian?

Should you raise your child vegetarian?

In the last few years, I’ve been an on-again, off-again vegetarian.

I believe that a healthy vegetarian diet can be a great plan to follow but after having chronic anemia and not being able to correct it through diet alone, I now eat meat along with a ton of plant-based foods and as a result, my kids eat the same way.

If you’ve considered whether or not you should raise your child vegetarian, you may have wondered if a vegetarian diet is healthy for kids and what types of foods they should eat.

Read on to learn if a vegetarian diet is healthy for kids and what you should consider before deciding to raise your child vegetarian.

Vegetarian kids on the rise

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention paid to plant-based, vegetarian and vegan diets, with plenty of health websites, bloggers, and celebrities touting the health benefits.

Still, the amount of people who actually call themselves vegetarian or vegan is slim.

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 5 percent of adults identify as vegetarian while 3 percent say they’re vegan.

And a 2014 national poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 4 percent of kids 8 to 18 are vegetarian or vegan, up from 3 percent in 2010

While some parents decide to raise their kids as vegetarian because they follow the plan themselves or simply because they want to eat healthier, some kids also decide to do so on their own.

In fact, teen girls, in particular, may start the diet because it’s trendy.

“Food is the one thing kids at this age can control. Sometimes wanting to be a vegetarian is a phase that passes for some children, while others are more committed to it,” Tara Todd, a registered dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital stated in this article.

Are vegetarian diets for kids healthy?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position statement, vegetarian and vegan diets that are appropriately planned are healthy and provide adequate nutrition, have health benefits that prevent and treat certain diseases and

are appropriate for infants, children and teens.

Studies show that vegetarian and vegan diets can prevent type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.

The Academy says vegetarian kids are less likely to become overweight and obese, and tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less sweets, salty snacks, and saturated fats than their meat-eating peers.

Research also shows that following a vegetarian diet early on in life can help to establish lifelong healthy, eating habits. 

Vegan diet for kids: the recent controversy

In May 2019, Belgian doctors from the Royal Academy of Medicine warned children, teens, and pregnant and breastfeeding moms to avoid vegan diets.

According to the position statement, they say veganism is “restrictive,” creates “unavoidable” nutritional shortcomings and, if not properly monitored, could lead to deficiencies and stunted development, this article states.

They even went so far as to say raising kids vegan is unethical because of the lack of animal protein and amino acids and called for parents who do so to be prosecuted, after deaths in schools, nurseries and hospitals.

In response, U.S. doctors from the Physicians Committee criticized the report saying it isn’t based on scientific evidence and could deter people from following a plant-based diet that can improve their health. They also said studies show people following a vegan diet get enough protein, iron and calcium.

What’s more, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says vegan diet for kids can be healthy and safe for infants and children, without lacking nutrition or affecting their growth.

What to consider before deciding to raise your child vegetarian

If you decide your kid will follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, there are certain nutrients you should focus on.

Protein

Although there are plenty of plant-based protein foods, because of differences in the amino acid composition and digestibility, children may need more protein, which may be between 15 and 35 percent depending on age.

Related: 9 Best Meatless Protein-Rich Foods For Kids (+Recipes!)

Iron

Iron is another nutrition kids who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may become deficient in, so it’s important for your child’s pediatrician to test for iron deficiency.

Eating iron-rich foods such as beans, eggs, soybeans, and spinach with foods rich in vitamin C like peppers, tomatoes, and citrus fruits can increase absorption.

If your child still falls short, a supplement can help.

Zinc

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vegetarians may need 50 percent or more of the recommended daily allowance for zinc than non-vegetarians.

To increase the bioavailability of zinc, they recommend vegetarians soak beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours, and allow them to sit until sprouts form before cooking them.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Kids who are vegan or lacto-vegetarian and avoid fish could be missing out on omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats kids need.

As an alternative, kids will need to get plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids which include chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds and fortified foods like cereal.

Related: 7 Kid-Friendly Ways To Use Chia Seeds

Vitamin B12

Since beef and certain types of fish are excellent sources of vitamin B12, kids can become deficient.

Still, there are some great suitable sources of vitamin B12 such as tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, and fortified foods like non-dairy milk and cereal.

Calcium

Fortunately, if your child is avoiding dairy, you don’t have to worry that he isn’t getting enough calcium.

Green leafy vegetables, figs, sesame seeds, soymilk and fortified cereals are all great sources of calcium.

Related: 10 Calcium-Rich Foods For Kids That Aren’t Milk


Vegetarian doesn’t always mean healthy

 

If you decide to raise your child vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to make sure the diet is well-planned.

Just like gluten-free diets, it’s really easy to rely on too many processed, packaged junk foods and frozen foods, and grab-and-go grocery store or take-out meals that are often low in fiber and high in sodium and saturated fat.

Instead, focus on plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.

Related: 25 Healthy Avocado Recipes for Kids

Since many vegetarian and vegan foods tend to be low in calories, it’s also important to make sure your kid is eating enough to support his growth and development.


Separate meals can mean more time in the kitchen

Another thing to consider is meal planning and cooking and the time it takes.

When I was vegetarian, it wasn’t easy to simply grab a protein and pop it in the oven.

I had to plan ahead and make large batches of lentils and bean burgers, for example, to make sure I always had something on hand.

If your child is vegetarian but you and your spouse aren’t for example, you could also find yourself making separate meals for everyone which can be time consuming.

Making meals in bulk, or cooking with your kids can help.


Get help from an expert

Kids’ diets can include a variety of fresh, whole foods but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re getting everything they need.

If your child is a picky eater, that’s even more of a reason to pay attention to his diet.

You might consider speaking to a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) who can take stock of what your kid is eating and where there might be nutritional deficiencies.

An RDN can also help with meal planning and recipes.

The bottom line: a vegetarian diet or vegan diet can be healthy for kids if it’s appropriately planned and kids actually eat the food.

Whether or not your child sticks with it or not, getting more plant-based foods in his diet is always a good idea.

Is your child vegetarian or vegan? What tips can you share for eating healthy?

8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

When your baby started solids, chances are, he was a happy, adventurous eater—willing to taste anything you put on his plate. Getting toddlers to eat however is an entirely different ball game.

One week your toddler seems to be eating enough, while the next, he takes two bites and declares “I’m not hungry.”

Or maybe your toddler never seems to be hungry or refuses to eat altogether—meal after meal or even for several days at a time.

Take heed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most toddlers are picky eaters and it’s completely normal.

Still, if you’re worried that your toddler isn’t eating enough and getting the nutrition he needs, there are some possible reasons behind his picky eating behaviors, and some ways to encourage him to eat.

 

1. Look at what your toddler is eating


Your toddler might not eat what you serve for dinner, but chances are he’s eating something throughout the day so it’s important to look at what that is and how often he’s eating.

If your toddler is loading up on snacks like crackers, chips and cookies, he’s probably not going to be hungry at meals.

Filling up on processed, packaged snacks can also crowd out calories and opportunities to serve up healthy, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. The same goes for juice or too much milk.

Also, feeding toddlers processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium trains their taste buds to prefer those foods so when it comes time to eating real food, they refuse to.

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

2. Offer tiny amounts for a tiny toddler

When it comes to getting toddlers to eat, it’s also important to look at portion sizes.

Instead of overwhelming your toddler with an entire plate, or even a kid-sized portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.

It sounds silly, but serving small amounts is often a no-pressure ways for toddlers to eat.

But don’t expect success on the first try either. Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite, so stay consistent and be patient.

3. Take advantage of snack time

If your toddler loves to snack, take advantage of those opportunities to serve up the same healthy, whole foods you want them to eat at meal time.

Snacks should fill the void between meals, but if these mini-meals are the only way your toddler will eat until his appetite eventually improves, so be it.

4. Let your toddler decide when he’s hungry

Bribing, pleading, negotiating and other pressure tactics don’t work long-term and only create power struggles at the dinner table. 

When we constantly beg toddlers, “just take one more bite,” or “you can’t leave until you eat,” they never have the opportunity to recognize when they’re hungry, when they’re satisfied, and when they’ve had too much.

Just think about how many adults overeat or are emotional eaters because they never learned this lesson.

Related: 6 Tips to Help Moms Stop Emotional Eating

Eating meals with your toddler should be a positive experience, so serve healthy foods at meals and snacks, in age-appropriate portion sizes (see the AAP’s helpful guide) and let your child decide what—and how much—he wants to eat.

“Kids usually eat as much as they need. Your child’s brain will make sure they eat enough calories,” Cynthia L.E. Gellner, a pediatrician at the University of Utah said in this interview.

5. Add a dip

Not only do toddlers love finger foods they can dip in a sauce or dressing, but offering a dip makes plain ‘ol fruits and vegetables more palatable and interesting.

Pair cut up vegetables with hummus, a bean dip or a guacamole. Or serve apple slices with yogurt or peanut butter.

6. Let toddlers play with their food

Smelling food, pushing food around their plates or playing with their food are all considered poor table manners, but allowing it can encourage toddlers to eat.

In fact, kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Encourage your toddler to touch, smell, and play with his food. Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate.

If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat.

7. Don’t give up

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen parents make is labeling their toddlers picky eaters the second they refuse to eat.

Once they believe that to be true, they become desperate to get their kids to eat anything so they turn to easy, quick, processed foods and frozen kid-friendly meals.

I totally understand this is a real frustration for most parents.

Sometimes you’re so fed up with the picky eating behaviors or you’re tired from a long day that making something you know your kid will eat is your saving grace until bedtime.

Although this can be a quick fix, over time, it actually reinforces picky eating because kids don’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, whole foods.

Consistency is key, so do your best to offer healthy foods and the right portion sizes as much as possible. Let your toddler feed himself—whether he wants a small bite, the whole meal or nothing at all.

8. Talk to your toddler’s pediatrician

Just because most toddlers are picky eaters doesn’t mean your toddler’s picky eating is normal.

Some toddlers may have sensory issues or feeding problems that should be addressed by a doctor or specialist.

Put a call into your pediatrician to talk about your concerns and next steps.