Help Your Kids Eat Right

August is Kids Eat Right Month—what a great time to help kids learn about nutrition and better food choices! As a dietitian mom, you would think my kids are poster children. They definitely are not, especially my middle child. Goodness, do my children love their sweets, snack foods and treats; it can be a challenge to get them to eat right. I have discovered the best way to get them eating healthy is getting them in the kitchen to help and learn.

Having a 16-month, 3 year old and 6 year old it is limiting on what they can and can’t do in the kitchen. Often times it ends up being a much BIGGER disaster when they help, but it makes for good teaching and fun memories. Our two older children have their own apron with their name on it along with their own cooking utensils that I feel are safe and age appropriate to use. This helps to entice them into the kitchen. I try to get their input on what we should cook/make for the snack or meal we are working on.

To help things go smoother, I try to stock better-for-you choices in my pantry/snack drawer (yes we have a snack drawer), and then the kids have the choice to take it upon themselves to experiment.

That is what cooking – and creating – is all about: the discovery and the delicious result.

CLICK HERE to print off the Kid-Friendly Kitchen Tasks for Every Age PDF!

Here are a few of the things we like to make together in the kitchen.

 

 

 

1. Trail Mix

Whatever we have in the cabinet, pantry and snack drawer (within reason) the kids can grab and mix. Some ingredients they like are pretzels, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, cereal, whole-grain goldfish crackers, almonds and mini marshmallows.

2. Smoothie

We start with a base of water and ice, and add from there— fresh or frozen fruit of any kind, Greek yogurt, Sugar Free/Fat Free pudding powder. I also have a shake product we use from a former weight management program I worked with and we like to add that as well.

3. Wraps

We lay out whole wheat tortilla and then the kids use their age appropriate knife to spread peanut butter on the wrap. They sprinkle a few chocolate chips and lay a banana in the center. The kids with assistance from me roll up the tortilla. Either they eat like this or I will cut in to pinwheel size for them to eat.

4. Watermelon and Blueberry Salad

I slice the watermelon into thick slices and the kids use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the watermelon. We then throw in any berries we have—blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and even grapes.

5. Chocolate Chips Banana Bread

This may not be the healthiest of recipes, but it is a huge hit in our house, and we only make it a few times a year.

What You Need:

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup low fat sour cream
  • ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 medium bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease loaf pan.
  2. Mix together melted butter and sugar, and add in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, then add to butter mixture
  4. Add in sour cream, bananas, and chocolate chips. Spread in loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until baked through.
  6. Cool on wire rack in pan, and remove from pan to finish cooling.

Back-to-school Breakfasts: Tips & Tricks

Back to school they go! On top of shopping for school supplies, arranging schedules, and all that goes in to preparing our kids for the new school year, it can be challenging to put together quick, easy and healthy breakfasts and lunches. Today, I’m going to share with you my dietitian breakfast tips.

Try these quick, easy and healthy breakfast tips and tricks to make back-to-school mornings a breeze.

In my household, we are not morning people. We push getting up until the last possible moment, hit the snooze button 6 times and then say, “CRAP, we are late!”. You would think after the first week of doing this, we would start to change our habits, but unfortunately, that is not the case. This all leads me to why quick, easy and healthy breakfast tips and tricks will make back-to-school mornings a breeze.

I know you are wiggling in your chair right now trying to figure out what I feed my kids. Let me preface by stating I can’t make this happen without PLANNING and having the food available. If the food isn’t there, we can’t eat it! Here are some things I like to keep on hand for breakfast and 6 of our go-to breakfasts.


CLICK HERE TO PRINT OFF ALL 6 RECIPES!


  • Fruit: fresh, frozen and canned
  • Whole Grains: quick oats, 100% whole wheat break, English muffins
  • Eggs & Dairy: eggs, milk (cow’s milk, almond milk or soy milk), light/non-fat greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese
  • Vegetables: salsa, tomatoes, frozen peppers and onions

Banana Pops

Ingredients

  • popsicle sticks
  • bananas
  • Greek yogurt
    • Substitute: peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread
  • unsweetened cereal
  • optional: mini chocolate chips or coconut shreds or raisins

Instructions

  1. Peel the banana, cut in half and insert popsicle stick.
  2. Dip the banana in yogurt, or coat with a knife.
  3. Roll in cereal and optional items.
  4. Place on parchment or wax lined cookie sheet and freeze. Keep in the freezer until ready to eat.

‘Pop Tart’ Toast

Ingredients

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tsp. butter or peanut butter
    • Substitute: chocolate hazelnut spread or cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. jelly/jam

Instructions

  1. Lightly butter/peanut butter both pieces of bread.
  2. Spread the jam/jelly onto one slice of the bread leaving about a ½ inch border. Then top with the remaining slice of bread.
  3. Cut the crust off the bread and seal the 2 slices of bread together using the tines of a fork. Put in the toaster and then the ‘pop tart’ is ready.
  4. You can also add fresh fruit for more flavor and nutritional quality.

Tortilla Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1 egg (can be whole egg, egg substitute or egg white)
  • Fillings: cheese, avocado, tomato, salsa, jalapeno, etc.
  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla

Instructions

  1. Scramble an egg.
  2. Mix in cheese, avocado, tomato, salsa, jalapeno—really whatever you like mixed with a scrambled egg.
  3. Place this inside a tortilla, wrap as a burrito and eat.
  4. Freeze up to one month. Microwave to thaw and cook.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These are a treat in our household, and what is fabulous is the kids don’t even know there is a vegetable in it.  

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. In a bowl, mix together eggs, oil and buttermilk.
  4. Add in all of the dry ingredients, including spices. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Fill the prepared muffin tin liners about 3/4 of the way.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the center muffin comes out mostly clean. Let cool.
  8. Divide into freezer Ziploc bags and freeze or leave some in fridge for the next few days.
  9. Serve a fruit or yogurt.

Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray miniature muffin pan thoroughly with cooking spray or grease with butter.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and pepper.
  4. Pour egg mixture into prepared pan, filling cups about 2/3 full.
  5. Sprinkle cheese evenly among the cups.
  6. Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until eggs set.
  7. Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack. When completely cooled, muffins can be wrapped in plastic and frozen.
  8. When ready to eat, simply microwave each mini muffin for 15-30 seconds, or until heated through.
  9. Serve these with fruit.

Freezer Ready French Toast Sticks

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf bread
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • butter

Instructions

  1. Slice each slice of bread into 3 sticks.
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Heat griddle to a medium-low temperature and heat butter on top of griddle.
  4. Put slices of bread into the egg mixture and place onto the griddle until griddle is full.
  5. Cook on each side until browned.
  6. Remove and set on a plate. Repeat cooking steps until all are done.
  7. To freeze: Lay cooked sticks on a greased cookie sheet. Freeze for at least a couple of hours. Then put in a freezer bag. Microwave for about 10-15 seconds when ready to eat. I don’t typically serve with syrup when in the car, as it can make a big sticky mess.

Food storage tips

Food

We have a 30-minute drive to town so we are typically eating our breakfast in the car. Rubbermaid TakeAlongs square food divided storage containers makes it great to have multiple items at breakfast without meshing and getting all over the car.

Beverages

Having a spill-proof cup is necessary for breakfast on the go in the car. Our go-to beverage for breakfast is milk or Carnation Instant Breakfast Light Start mixed with milk.

Are chemicals ruining your taste buds?

Nutrition is much like a Rubik’s cube, complex and simple all at the same time. Because we overthink things and thus overcomplicate situations, we often miss the answers that are directly in front of us. When it comes to eating healthy, do not overthink it.

Not only is an abundance of chemicals bad for your health, think about what it has done to our taste buds over years of chronic ingestion.

Eat food and not food-like products. If nature created it or it had a mother, eat it. If a factory created it, think twice before you bite. This will also help you see past marketing gimmicks that drive up sales for processed foods. I don’t care if the packaging says whole grains, real fruit or gluten-free, there is nothing natural about a Poptart and therefore, no associated benefits with its consumption.

Two key problems with processed foods are the added salts and sugars. Both serve several purposes—intensifying flavor, prolonging freshness, improving texture, preventing moisture build-up and binding molecules to name a few. Not only is this abundance of chemicals bad for our health, think about what it has done to our taste buds over years of chronic ingestion.

Added Sugars

Synthetic versions of sugar and artificial sweeteners have completely warped our taste buds. Chemicals such as high fructose corn syrup and aspartame are manufactured to be up to 600x sweeter than sugar. People become quickly addicted to this unnatural sweetness and no longer can appreciate the value of foods that provide natural sugars. People pour sugar on cereal, oatmeal, fruit, beans, sweet potatoes, spaghetti, salad dressings, all with the quest of creating a more powerful, sweet palate.

Reduce your sugar intake

The good news is that you can improve your tastesbuds’ sensitivity to sugar. The process simply involves cutting out sugar and added sugars to the best of your ability for at least 30 days. It is remarkable how sweet a strawberry will taste in its natural element when you have avoided sugar for an extended period of time.

Added Salts

People avoid the saltshaker in efforts to reduce dietary sodium intake, but you know where the majority of sodium comes from? The Western diet or more commonly known as processed and cheap foods. More than 75% of daily sodium intake occurs from consuming items like breads, pizza, frozen dinners, sandwiches, lunchmeats, condiments, salad dressings, fast food menu items and soups. You can choose prepackaged foods and fast food menu items that are low in calories, low in fat, possibly even low in sugar, but you rarely find options that are low in sodium. Part of the reason why people add so much salt to their cooked food is because we are subconsciously trying to mimic the high salt value of the typical McDonalds order.

Reduce your sodium intake

One of the best approaches to reducing dietary sodium intake and thus decreasing preferences for salty foods is to cut back or even eliminate processed foods and eating out. Yes, it may be challenging at first, but you have everything to gain from focusing more on fresh, natural foods. Your nutrient intake will improve, your fiber will go up, you’ll sleep better, have less headaches and might even lose weight.

Eat food, not food-like products.

Should you be counting your calories?

The other day I was with a patient and she said, “Megan I’m frustrated with you”. That took me aback for a minute; I felt our sessions had been going well and she was working towards her goals. She went on to tell me I had not given her a calorie count to follow.

 

Now, this is not the first time I have heard this. We hear so many times calories in=calories out, so we must count our calories, right? NO! That is not so and I am not a dietitian that recommends calorie counting to my patients and here is why.

Our bodies are very complex. Trying to simplify the way our bodies work by tracking a single a calorie, is not necessarily effective.

Counting calories can leave you feeling hungry, deprived, upset, and eventually, right back to your original weight or higher. Not only can you feel exhausted and empty as you restrict your body of what it needs, but also any weight you do lose ends up coming back anyway once you start “eating” again. It’s a lose-lose situation. Not only do you not achieve the desired result, but you also feel defeated and terrible about yourself!

So what counts?

Eat healthier by cutting back portions and adding in non-starchy vegetables.
Remember your #plategoals— ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrate and ½ non-starchy vegetables. Try this approach to every meal; it eliminates the need to count calories! The #plategoals method can provide half the calories of a typical meal, with the same volume, if not more— and get this, 1-2 times the nutrients.

 

Eat every few hours.
Snack between meals; be sure to include a protein and a carbohydrate. This frequent eating, not grazing, helps to fuel your body and boost your metabolism.

Here are some great snack ideas:

  • One half banana or one medium apple with 1 Tbsp nut butter
  • ½ c lite peaches and ½ c low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 Tbsp hummus and ½ c sugar snap peas
  • 5 reduced fat Triscuits® with 1 oz low-fat cheese
  • One half of a whole-wheat pita stuffed with ½ c lite tuna or egg salad
  • One whole multi-grain English muffin topped with tomato sauce and 1 oz low-fat mozzarella cheese, then baked
  • 10 multi-grain Wheat Thins® with 1 oz low-fat string cheese
  • One small baked potato topped with salsa and 1 oz low-fat cheese
  • ½ c fruit blended with 1 c fat-free/low-fat yogurt and 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • ½ c goldfish crackers made with whole grain and a medium apple
  • Whole-wheat tortilla, topped with ½ c apples and low-fat cheddar cheese, and then heated in microwave
  • 9oz angel food cake or reduced fat biscuit with 1 c strawberries
  • One small baked sweet potato, topped with ½ c pineapple tidbits
  • 3 c low-fat popcorn with 2 Tbsp nuts

Start today by simplifying your health and weight goals by no longer counting calories, but making sure your caloric intake is sourced from the right types of food.

Click here to print off Easy “Mix and Match Meals” using the #plategoals method.

 

It’s okay to indulge — sometimes

If you can stick to your healthy eating plan consistently throughout the week, then having an indulgence once a week is perfectly fine.  

I do not have a perfect diet nor do I want to.  Perfection does not allow for holidays, birthdays, monumental celebrations or simply a normal Wednesday gone awry. A flawless diet does not exist because something is going to be sacrificed such as your social life, travel schedule or pure sanity. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a life without some of our favorite foods be it pizza, donuts, ice cream or my Aunt’s prized apple pie. While, this is not a promotion to make these foods a part of your weekly grocery list, rest assure that you can still achieve your health goals and still have a some fun along the way.

If you can stick to your healthy eating plan consistently throughout the week, then having an indulgence once a week is perfectly fine. Remember you are what you repeatedly do, not what you occasionally do. One indulgence won’t ruin your diet just the same that eating one salad won’t improve it. Studies have shown that being “too healthy” can bring its share of consequences. So personally, I welcome opportunities, when appropriate, to enjoy fun foods that I normally don’t consume on a regular basis (see chart above 🙂 ).  Here are some additional tips to help guide your indulgent behaviors.

Don’t write off your favorite treats. Making certain foods forbidden can have nasty consequences— both mentally and behaviorally. Sometimes telling yourself “no” does nothing but intensify those thoughts and cravings. Think of it in terms of a pressure relief valve.  The occasional indulgence can help relieve built-up pressure of cravings and bring you back to a happy equilibrium.

Make it count. Indulging can be defined by the act of pampering or spoiling oneself. It should be a real indulgence and not a pale substitute. While some substitutes may taste quite authentic, most will leave you lingering for the real deal and will not fully satisfy those specific cravings. On the other end, if something doesn’t hit the spot stop eating it! There is nothing worse than the feeling that you just wasted your special treat on something you did not truly enjoy. Be confident that there will be plenty of future opportunities to treat yourself.

Define when you will indulge. You have heard me preach before how strongly I dislike the phrase “everything in moderation”. This message is simply too vague and most walk away with the thought that it’s okay to eat something less nutritious on a frequent basis as long as it’s a small serving size. For example having a daily small portions of dessert is not practicing moderation, it is your habit. Reserve indulgences to special occasions and celebrations such as weddings, holidays, annual festivals, etc. Sorry, but making it through a Monday is not necessarily a good reason to treat yourself.

Plan ahead, when possible. Let’s say your indulgence is spending $$$ on a vacation. Leading up to and even after your trip, you are probably going to be a little more conservative with your wallet. This approach can also be applied to your eating habits. If you know of your potential indulgence ahead of time, try to make sure you have high quality meals and snacks all week. No need to decrease calories, but make the calories you do consume as nutrient-dense as possible.  

8 Habits of Happy People

We are all looking for more, chasing something, wanting something—a promotion, a new car, a bigger house or relationship. This drive lends to the beliefs that “When I get a promotion, then my life will be better. When I get a significant other, then I will be happy.” It is true that these things will make us happy at first— but that happiness is fleeting.

Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

There is a mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness or sadness. This is very common and referred to as impact bias. Impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional response to future events. This is in essence the “whenthen” that people are stuck in that prevents them from being truly happy in the present.

Happiness that lasts is honed through habits. Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

  1. Appreciate the small things.

Practicing gratitude for what we have is key to being happy. We get daily reminders of how wonderful life can be and paying attention to those can change how you view things dramatically. A good meal, the warm sunshine, a laughing baby, the smell of coffee in the morning and the love from a pet are all things that we can enjoy. Appreciating these little things can really help put into perspective what we really need to be happy.

  1. Surround yourself with happy people

Happiness is contagious. Being around happy people can stimulate your creativity, build confidence, and just put you in a better mood. Being around negative people has the opposite effect. Do you want to surround yourself with people that are having pity parties? Remember that misery loves company and negative people will only bring you down with them.

  1. Stay Positive

Bad things happen to everyone— including happy people. Happy people do not dwell on the negative; instead, they find a silver lining, create meaning, learn a lesson, grow from the experience and find some gratitude.
Examples:
You have to work the weekend. At least you will get overtime and can pay off some debt.
Your daughter totaled the car. Be grateful that she is safe and you have insurance.

  1. Practice kindness and help others

Taking time to help other people not only helps other, but also helps you too. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10x more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. Small random acts of kindness can make a big difference. Saying “thank you” to the cashier, opening the door, returning a grocery cart for someone, smiling, offering a compliment are all ways to practice kindness.

  1. Avoid gossip

Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand in hand. They have deep conversations and avoid gossip, small talk and judging others. They focus on meaningful interactions and engage people on a deeper level to build emotional connections.

  1. Make an effort to be happy

Not everyone wakes up feeling cheerful and blessed every day, and happy people are no different. They make a concerted effort to adjust their moods. They work at being happy despite some of the pitfalls in life that happen. Happy people are evaluating what they can do to make themselves feel better emotionally instead of getting in the “poor me” rut when things do not go as planned.

  1. Have growth in mind

People that have growth in mind believe that they can improve with effort, learn from past mistakes, embrace and make changes. People that do not have growth in mind feel that you are whom you are and cannot be changed— can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Happy people believe in learning new things about themselves and are able to utilize that to solve problems.

  1. Prioritizing

Happy people know how to prioritize what is important in life. People sometimes get so caught up in making a living that they forget to have a life. Happy people make time for what makes them happy such as family, friends, self-care, vacation, sleep, etc. In the quest for success, it is important to know and be aware of what can make us achieve true happiness.

Author Annie Dillard stated, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Happiness is not something that we stumble upon or find; it is something that we manifest. It is an internal reward and we can tap into it anytime that we want. It is not something external that we can pursue, not if we want it to last. Happiness can be achieved with the right habits and even investing in just a few of them can make a big difference in your mood and outlook.