Category Archives: Kids Eat Right

Messages from the Kids Eat Right Program, including Monday messages and general information for getting kids the nutrients they need!

Should you hide your child’s vegetables?

Today’s Kids Eat Right Monday Message addresses a point of internal struggle for many health-conscious parents: should you sneak vegetables into your child’s food if they don’t like eating them?

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Getting creative by shredding carrots into your spaghetti sauce or folding mushrooms and onions into meatloaf is a perfectly acceptable strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy. If you hide your child’s vegetables, how will they ever learn to recognize  and accept them as a healthy part of their diets?

It’s a good idea to serve vegetables in their natural form along with their disguised counterpart. That way, children can begin experimenting with tastes, textures, and aromas. They may even recognize the taste as “that yummy sweetness in Mom’s meatloaf!”

Learn to serve vegetables center-stage….er, plate! Increasing your own culinary skills with different vegetable sides and main dishes will allow your whole family to explore new flavors and styles of food. Kids may like garlic-roasted more than baked or steamed; they may even find the crisp crunch of a raw carrot more appealing compared to the soft, sweet nature of a steamed one. Plus, seeing a colorful plate will help kids internalize what a healthy plate should look like. Even if they don’t realize it, internalizations like this will carry over into college and adulthood when your kids have to prepare their own meals. I know I want my nieces to tell their friends, My Aunt Riley always served food that was healthier and super good when I was at her house, so I try to emulate her in my habits.

Vegetables in Hiding
http://www.finecooking.com/articles/indian-vegetable-stir-fries.aspx http://fraldadepano.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/desafio-30-dias-30-saladas-diferentes/ http://paleoleap.com/zucchini-and-sweet-potato-frittata/ http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-baked-macaroni-amp-cheese-with-spinach-amp-red-peppers-recipes-from-the-kitchn-207869 http://www.food.com/recipe/kidney-bean-vegetable-soup-234605

Kids eat what they see their parents eating, so don’t skip yourself when trying to improve your kids’ nutrition. Let them see you eating AND ENJOYING different veggies. Odds are, they will be more willing to try them and more likely to enjoy them if they see you enjoying them!

Finally, hide veggies in plain sight. Pizzas, tacos and burritos, pasta, casseroles, and lasagnas offer great opportunities to mix in chunks of veggies like mushrooms, spinach, black olives, broccoli or cauliflower, onions, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados. Kids can see how veggies mix with foods they already like this way. The article mentions mixing butternut squash into mac and cheese– I have never done this, but it sounds DELICIOUS! So you see? Nothing is off limits. Get creative with your veggie medleys!

The second part of this week’s Monday Message is a recipe for Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

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I personally have never enjoyed Brussels sprouts that weren’t heavily sauced with cheese, but this recipe actually sounds pretty simple and pretty yummy. I can’t share all these healthy messages to you all if I’m not willing to try something new myself, so I’m making a resolution for myself: I will make these saucy sprouts at some point in the next week or so, take some pictures, and let you all know how it goes.

While I’m doing that, think about some ways you can increase veggie consumption in your own life and the life of your kids and family! Any insights? Share below! Have a happy Monday!

Happy Halloween Monday Message

This week’s Kids Eat Right message ties in health with the spooky spirit of the season: How to Throw a Healthy Halloween Party!

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Despite what you might think, dietitians aren’t insisting you keep the lock on the candy jar. Halloween is one day a year, so everyone should enjoy it! There are ways to make it fun and healthy while still indulging in your favorite candy.

  • Serve healthy snacks first: Let kids fill up on healthy, Halloween-themed snacks first and then bring out the candy. They will be full of nutritious goodness and will consume less candy.
  • Keep control of portions: Serve fun-sized candy bars and mini-muffins, cookies, and brownies for some regulation on how much kids consume. You can also consider having specified “snack times” between Halloween party games and activities rather than letting kids graze throughout the evening.
  • Make your own healthy treats: See examples a little further below!
  • Zombie Tag and other fun games keep kids active: Play Zombie tag where the “it” kid turns those he tags into more Zombies to tag the other kids. Google fun and active Halloween games to play.
  • Limit the leftovers: After the night of fun and fright is over, bag candy and put it in an out-of-sight place to limit consumption. Plus, your candy will last longer! Another fun use for leftover candy is to chop it up and mix it with granola, pretzels, nuts, or seeds and make trail mix to keep the Halloween spirit alive!

Try these fun, Halloween-themed foods!

Halloween Snacks

  • Orange baked sweet potato fries with green “goop” guacamole so your kids can get into the Halloween spirit with healthy Vitamin A and unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Black and orange tortilla chips with hummus, or try the Ghost Chips and Spider Dip featured on the Kids Eat Right website! It’s incredibly healthy and easy!
  • Tortilla roll ups with sun-dried tomato tortillas filled with lean sandwich meat or beans
  • Make your own orange-colored granola bars with chocolate chips, raisins, and nuts! You can control nuts and grains for kids with allergies.
  • Cut up apples and serve with caramel, peanut butter, or a fruit dip made with Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.
  • PUMPKIN FLAVORED ANYTHING!! Use a can of pumpkin puree in your muffins, smoothies, and dips!
  • Popcorn with cinnamon and sugar mixed into the butter
  • Chocolate covered fruit
  • 10 Healthy Halloween Treats
  • Bake raw bread dough into bones and serve with dip or soup! Check it out here!
  • Layer pineapples, mandarin oranges, and whipped cream mixed with greek yogurt for a candy corn-inspired parfait. Check it out here!
  • Babel cheese eyeballs with red food paint and black olives. Check it out here!
  • Orange and black kabobs with cheddar cheese and midnight beauty grapes

Have a happy and healthy Halloween!

References:

Happy Halloween! http://www.brunswickme.org/departments/parks-recreation/special-events/halloween-activies/

Healthy Halloween Party: http://www.eatright.org/kids/article.aspx?id=6442478656

Ghose Dip Video: http://www.eatright.org/kids/video.aspx?id=6442466342

Candy corn veggie platter: http://www.listotic.com/64-non-candy-halloween-snack-ideas/4/

Apples and Teeth: http://dailydelights.sheknows.com/articles/825097/healthy-halloween-snacks-for-your-little-monsters

Mummy hot dogs: http://www.ivillage.com/healthy-halloween-treats-kids-will-love/6-a-128659

Kids Eat Right Comes To a Close

School meals, once ranking right alongside airline food on the “deliciousness” scale, have since become a convoluted, complicated topic. I’m not sure most parents understand the requirements for the lunches served to their kids; frankly, sometimes I feel like no one could possibly keep up with the ever-changing regulations, deadlines, and deals made in the name of children’s health.

I’ve wanted to write an article about this issue for a while now, but sadly, have not been able to find the time I wanted to really dig into the topic. Luckily, I found this article today that sums up the last decade of school food regulations with a particular focus on the last four years.

The article, How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground from The New York Times, talks mainly about the evolution of school meals since the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 was passed. Proponents of the strict regulations have since switched sides (who would’ve thought the School Nutrition Association would eventually become one of the most vocal opponents of the very bill they championed?) and new deals have since been struck. It’s a bit of a lengthy read, but is one of the better synthesis articles I have come across. It certainly explains the complicated legal ramifications and rebuttals better than I could in the short time I have to make this post.

Have you had any interactions with the school meal system, either positive or negative, as a parent or student, that relate to this topic? Leave a comment below!

Row, Row, Row Your Butt Off

The month is almost up and I am excited to post my last Kids Eat Right-related article next week and begin researching a new topic. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can skip out on me! I’ve still got two posts with which to capture your attention and challenge your creativity!

I found this article on NPR Boston this morning and really enjoyed the message it sent about exercise for kids and the potential for a good debate it introduced. I encourage you to read (skim) it during your lunch break.

The story is called “If You Build a Crew Program for Overweight Kids, They Will Row– And Get Fitter.” It’s not the catchiest title, but the message is strong: overweight and obese kids do not get the recommended number of hours of exercise, and the school PE environment does little to help boost their enthusiasm or confidence in this area. Thus, Boston Children’s Hospital has created a program called Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) On the Water that allows obese kids to engage in physical activity within their comfort zone. How? Rowing with other overweight kids.

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OWL On The Water participants bring a shell out of the Community Rowing boathouse in Brighton, and to a dock on the Charles River. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

While some gym teachers may label these kids as unsuitable for excellence in team sports, it turns out that obese kids often possess a lot of muscular strength. Rowing is a great way for these kids to build that strength and avoid high-impact weight-bearing exercise that might hurt their joints. It’s also a great way to build camaraderie and confidence within a group of kids all suffering from the same issue of weight. The program is in its 10th season and fitness improvements in the 24 enrolled students have been documented every year.

Sarah Picard, Boston Children’s resident psychologist, says that her clients are the kids usually picked last for school sports. Some even avoid school to avoid participating in annual fitness testing. My favorite quote from the article is one of hers: “They [obese and overweight kids] are strong, powerful people, so when you put them in a program that caters to their strength set or ability set, they thrive.”

Alternatives to school gym class are popping up everywhere as communities and more formal organizations strive to engage the 23 million American kids who are overweight or obese. Their existence brings up some important questions:

  • How can our current school physical education system become more effective in encouraging kids to get active?
  • Should schools address physical activity in overweight and obese kids differently compared to their normal weight peers?

Dr. Michael Bergeron, executive director of the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute, points out the culture of exclusion that has developed in youth sports as coaches seek out the best students for their teams rather than those that could benefit from the exercise.

  • Do you agree?
  • How can school and community sporting teams focus on winning and encouraging health?
  • What does it mean to be “healthy” or “fit”?

Share your thoughts below! Read the original article here.

Monday Message (on Tuesday)

Today’s post is focused on two of my favorite things: water and carbs.

Scientifically (stay with me here), a “carbohydrate” is a molecule containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually arranged in a five or six sided ring. These rings join together and create sugars and starches. These compounds are present in grains, cereals, legumes, vegetables, dairy, and fruits. However, most people use “carbohydrate” in reference only to starches present in spaghetti, bread, and sugary snacks and candy.

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So, from now on, if anyone ever asks you, don’t be fooled: all food groups except meats contain carbohydrates.

Carbs of any kind, but particularly those of the pasta/bread variety, are my absolute favorite. But you know this already; you saw my toast post last week. However, many popular fad diets advocate low carb intakes or recommend eliminating carbohydrates from one’s diet altogether. While reduction of certain carbs in the diet may be beneficial, complete elimination is a big ol’ no bueno, particularly for kids. Why is this? One major reason is because your brain works best when it can use carbohydrates for fuel. If you’re not eating carbs, your body has to jump through all kinds of metabolic hoops to make an acceptable fuel source for your brain. This can be hard on your liver, kidneys, and mess with the acid balance of your blood. In summary, the reasons to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet are all in your head.

The Good: The best carbohydrates are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which boosts intestinal health and plays a role in lowering cholesterol. Whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals are high in fiber, as are beans and legumes, potatoes with skin, and brown rice. Vegetables are great resources for all three nutrients. Milk and dairy contain a specific carbohydrate called lactose and are both definitely healthy for kids and adults.

The Bad: The not-so-great carbs are the added sugars, or “bad carbs”. These are tricky little buggers that hide in all kinds of processed foods. Look on the nutrition label and ingredients list for “added sugars”. Flavored milks usually have a significant amount of added sugar, as do baked goods, candies, and sodas and “fruit drinks”. These are the type of carbs everyone could benefit from reducing in their diet. Remember: every food has a place in the diet in moderation, so don’t enter a guilt spiral because you don’t want to give up cookies.

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Now, one cannot increase fiber intake without also increasing their hydration! Fluids are recommended for adults at 1 milliliter per calorie consumed per day. Therefore, each adult needs roughly 2,000 milliliters, or 2 liters, of fluids per day based on the standard 2,000 calorie diet. The recommendations for children range from roughly 1.5 liters for young children to over 3 liters for teenage boys. That’s a lot of fluid!

Don’t panic, though: these fluid recommendations are for total water, which includes both beverages and the natural water present in foods. Fruits and vegetables both have very high water contents that help keep their calorie levels low and nutrient levels high. That’s another reason why fruits and veggies are so good for you!

Kids are more likely to become dehydrated than adults, particularly with exercise! Kids need about six to eight cups of water a day to meet the recommended levels of hydration. Combine that with an adequate intake of of fruit and veggies to ensure your kids are staying hydrated throughout the day. Be sure you have water available for kids before, during, and after physical activity. Also, be sure to give them exercise breaks every 15 minutes in which to guzzle some cool, watery goodness. Another benefit of drinking water is that the more water kids drink, the less sugar they’ll get from artificially sweetened beverages!

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The Kids Eat Right initiative sends out a Monday Message to everyone who signs up for their email list.This message shares cool nutrition tips for kids and families. As a Kids Eat Right Volunteer, it is my duty to spread the healthy message to anyone interested in learning about nutrition! Please visit the links below to read the original Monday Messages and learn more from the great Kids Eat Right website!

Kids Eat Right Monday Messages:

Carbohydrates: http://www.eatright.org/kids/article.aspx?id=6442482392

Hydration: http://www.eatright.org/kids/video.aspx?id=6442481293

Also see: http://www.eatright.org/kids/article.aspx?id=6442470651

Sassy Mean Girls meme from: http://www.prettylittlegrub.com/tag/nutrition-myths/

Girl with copious foods from: http://wealthcreationseminars.net/sabotaging-health/

Snack Attack!

Do you like eating new foods?

Personally, the weirder, the better. Some people are not like me, however, and would much rather stick to what they know. Articles about Angelina Jolie feeding dried crickets to her kids make them reach for the nearest garbage can. I remember I once got my little sister to try calamari (fried squid) at Pappadeaux by telling her it was chicken. She didn’t speak to me for two days.

Now, personally, my sister’s silence was anything but unwelcome. However, her disgust demonstrates an important point. Many kids (toddlers and college-age alike) don’t want to try anything weird or different. So how do you get kids like this to embrace new foods, particularly fruits and veggies, if they haven’t really been exposed to them in their diets before?

One method is to make it fun. 🙂

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Yes, those are dinosaur-shaped sandwich cutters. Yes, I am 21. What is your point?

Not every family has access to cool sandwich cutters and organic granola and food processors. Not everyone is a gourmet chef, or really even that creative. That’s okay, I’m right there with you. You can still inspire and involve your kids and get them to nom on the healthy stuff. All you need is a little inspiration yourself. This could come from Pinterest or even a Google search for “healthy snacks for kids.”

I’ll give ya a head start. Check it out!

Snacks 1

Bear-y nice to see you toast with honey or fruit/nut butter! Animal cracker feeding troughs! Apple sandwiches- crunchy, yet satisfying! Taste the rainbow fruit kebabs and honey nut cheerio sheep! Get creative with cookie cutters, toothpicks, skewers, and knives to make shapes and sculptures! Or come up with a cute snack name. Who could resist a “Pretzel Snack Stack”?

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Snacks 2

Use peanut/apple/any type of fruit or nut butter to do a little late-night fishing. Color your spaghetti, or enjoy a “day at the beach” with your kids. Play games using stoplight graham crackers spread with cream cheese. Use vegetable pieces to make a picture; it doesn’t have to be the next Mona Lisa, it just has to be fun. Even something as simple as writing messages on bananas might be all the encouragement your kids need to pick a healthy snack.

Playing games with your food is a big ol’ taboo. Why is that? If playing “basketball” with whole-grain, low fat popcorn using my 13-year-old’s mouth as the basket gets them to increase their fiber intake (without choking), I’m all for it. If your child has a pretty FIRM GRASP on penmanship (Oh, the puns!), play a game of tic-tac-toe with grapes and strawberry slices using pretzel sticks or veggie strips to make the board. Play pretend with your animal crackers or other animal-themed snacks. Introduce them to broccoli florets by pretending they’re flowers, “smelling” their sweet fragrance and offering bunches to each other in grand romantic gestures.

Or even, oh, I dunno…….make dinosaur sounds while you eat your sandwiches……..and introduce whole wheat bread or a new sandwich veggie at the same time.

Even if you’re not the most creative parent, it’s okay. The act of taking the time to make a fun snack for your child at home or for school shows them that you care. I’d be pretty happy to read an encouraging note on a banana from my mom, and would definitely be more receptive to actually consuming said banana.

The simple act of sitting down with your child while they eat their snack and talking to them is great, too. Heck, snack time can be as simple as having them help you throw together some trail mix and put it into bags for the week (my favorite is pretzels, dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and walnuts, banana chips optional). Experience shows that when kids help pick or make their food, they are more likely to eat it. They’re excited to try something they helped create–who wouldn’t be?

Make food fun, and do what works for you. I use dinosaur sandwich cutters. The back of the fridge and bottom of the pantry are your only limits, and the benefits aren’t just for kids. Odds are that, while making food fun for your kids, you might find it makes food fun for you, too.

References:

My Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/doghouse33/themed-eatables/

Snails!: http://nestleusa.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/simple-is-best-after-school-snack-ideas/

Ideas!

General snack ideas: http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/the-20-best-snacks-for-kids/

This sweet Kids Eat for Fun Pinterest idea board: http://www.pinterest.com/thesugaraunts/food-for-kids/

Picky Eaters: http://www.playingwithwords365.com/2012/08/getting-your-picky-eater-to-explore-new-foods/

A Breakfast How-To

I’m afraid my first post is also a bit of a confession: I got a late start on this new blog due to some rather trivial activities that kept clamoring for my attention (moving back home from Ethiopia, unpacking, repacking for college, unpacking into my dorm, arranging my school and work schedules to make time to sleep, let’s not forget actually attending and studying for my classes; absolute frivolity, all of it) and, as such, completely missed blogging during the first EVER Kids Eat Right month this August!

The shame is almost unbearable. Nevertheless, I stand (er, sit) before you now, having said my Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s, resolute and determined to rectify this atrocious misstep.

Therefore,  this month’s posts will be a belated celebration of this new national initiative!

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Kids Eat Right is a national awareness campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to promote healthy eating for kids and families throughout America. The website contains a bunch of nifty resources for families striving to improve nutrition at the table and on the go. These include recipes, nutrition recommendations, and tips on how to vary your food choices on a budget for kids of all ages, from babies to teens. Today, we’re focusing on what happens to be the most important part of any good day: breakfast.

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Academy’s The State of Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Report: Are We Making Progress? report showed that kids who skipped the morning meal had more problem-solving difficulties than their breskfast-ed counterparts and scored noticeably lower on tests. Other studies have shown that kids (and adults) who consume breakfast have a healthier BMI (body mass index, or weight proportional to height).

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However, many people do not like eating breakfast; they’re not hungry in the morning, they don’t have time to make food in the rush to get to school/work on time, or they just don’t know what to serve for a healthy breakfast. Everyone can relate to the stresses of going back to school (see the first paragraph of this blog for my personal example). It can be particularly challenging to make enough time to eat well in the midst of all the new happenings, especially when “five more minutes” becomes one’s morning mantra. It can be done, however! All it takes is a little preparation and enthusiasm.

Tips and Tricks to Maintain Your “Five More Minutes” Mantra

  • Cut down on late night snacks to increase your child’s appetite in the morning. Consider a food curfew.
  • Start small if breakfast is not a popular meal in your house. Making habits can take time, so start with a plate of toast or a small bowl of yogurt.
  • Prep before bed. Setting the breakfast table the night before saves minutes in the morning and reminds you and the kids to grab a bite before you hit the road.
  • Prepare foods the night before or over the weekend. Foods like muffin-sized quiches, yogurt n’ berries with granola, and fruit or nut-filled muffins can be made the night before or even over a weekend. That way you also have a week’s supply ready for even the craziest morning.
  • Stock up on grab-n-go foods like bananas, apples, oranges, string cheese, fruit and nut bars, bagels, toast, and small containers of milk and 100% juice.
  • Make grab-n-go baggies for a speedy morning send-off. Good items include whole-wheat crackers, carrot sticks or other small veggies, dried fruits and cereal, nuts, and small fruits or fruit slices like grapes or strawberries.
  • Even if your child isn’t hungry in the morning, put a small breakfast food in their backpack or hand it off as they board the bus. Sometimes it takes a bit longer for the morning appetite to set in, and this way, they have a healthy morning snack to hold them over until lunch!
  • Breakfasts don’t have to be “breakfast-y.” You can start your morning right with leftover quesadillas, cheese and crackers, or rice and veggies. The important thing is that nutrition is getting into your kids’ stomachs.
  • Involve your child in choosing what foods will be served at breakfast.You can even let them help you prepare foods for breakfast. Involvement leads to investment and excitement about the breakfast they helped make.
  • Eat breakfast yourself! There is no better role model for your child’s health habits than you. You’ll both enjoy the benefits!

The most important part of a healthy breakfast is protein. Eating enough protein in the morning helps stave off mid-morning munchies that can be distracting for children and ultimately disruptive in the classroom. Try to include low-fat cheese, dairy, a slice or two of Canadian bacon, eggs, or even peanut butter on toast. As always, whole grains, fruits, and veggies in your morning meal gets you extra nutrition points! Already out of breakfast ideas? Google can be your best friend in times where the creative juices just aren’t flowing.

You can’t go wrong with breakfast! Try some of these ideas or Google some of your own! Below are a few links I found helpful writing this post as well as some good breakfast resources to check out. Try a few, or if you have some other great ideas, leave a comment below: what are YOUR best breakfast picks?

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Kids Eat Right home page: http://www.eatright.org/kids/

Look for some yummy breakfast ideas here:

References: